From the time Dan Chahbar drops his kids off at school in the morning until they are ready to be tucked into bed, or even after they’re asleep, he is ensconced in a local restaurant.
Some might put “-aholic” as part of the adjective used to describe him, and they’d be right if they used “work” to preface it.
For the past 18 years, he’s owned and operated Crabby Joe’s in town. But now he has sold the business to spend more time with his family.
For Dan, it’s a bit like trading one family for another.
“A lot of these patrons, we’ve hung out outside of Crabby Joe’s. We’ve played golf, done charity work. There are a lot of people I will continue to be friends with outside of this restaurant,” he said.
As part of his bachelor party, a group of Crabby Joe’s patrons took Dan out to play paintball.
And then there is the staff at Crabby’s, some of whom have been around almost as long as Dan has.
“I have some staff who watched me get married and have kids and I have done the same with them,” he said.
Dan said over the years he’s tried to lead by example.
“A lot of hands on for me, sweeping the floor, cleaning the washrooms, cooking on the line – I’ve done everything that I’ve asked my staff to do,” he said.
It doesn’t sound as sweet a business as some might think.
“To some, it’s a pretty cool business to get into – the Sam Malone (of the TV show Cheers) mentality. But it’s not pretty. It’s hard work,” Dan said. “It’s a tough business. As a business itself, it’s not a lot fun. But as you get involved in the community and local projects, there are so many extras that make you want to do it over and over again,” he said.
Dan admitted it’s the people that make it all worthwhile.
“You could be having a bad day and then you meet somebody and they’ll totally change your day,” he said.
The long days may have taken their toll, but his time at Crabby Joe’s led to him meeting his wife, Kelly, who worked at the restaurant.
Dan’s first date with his wife was on St. Patrick’s Day.
“She was working here long before that and wanted to take this old man out for dinner. We’ve been together ever since,” he said. That was nine years ago.
He and Kelly have two young children, Jacob, 6, and Abby, 4.
With a staff of more than 30 people, and the fact it’s a restaurant that’s open for lunch, dinner and late into the evening, Dan said it’s pretty much impossible to juggle it and his family to give them both the attention he feels they deserve.
“If it wasn’t for the sheer size of the business, I probably wouldn’t sell it,” he said. “I got married later in life and have young kids. I want a smaller business.”
Dan admitted he wasn’t actively looking to sell, but a Windsor-area businessman changed his mind.
“It wasn’t for sale, but these people offered to take it over, and I thought, ‘Why not?’ Offers don’t come by very often,” he said.
Dan said the new owners hail from Windsor and own two other Crabby Joe’s franchises in Leamington and Essex, as well as a Chuck’s Roadhouse in Windsor.
Dan said he has nothing planned for the short term, save for time off work, and time on with his family.