By Geoff Agombar
Local Journalism Initiative
“The only thing that ever changed was the prices,” Bernard Saint-Laurent chuckles, recalling youthful memories at Louis’ restaurants back in the ’60s. “If you went often enough, you’d get to know the people.”
From 75-cent high school lunchbreaks down by river, running down the hill and back before classes started, to late nights after the Sherbrooke Beavers games, to calls of “Let’s go to Chewy Louis’” with the Bishop’s crowd, for Saint-Laurent memories of comforting meals at Louis’ are dear.
“One of the things that was special about Louis’ is that you would see the same faces from year to year to year to year,” he marvels. “It was kind of nice. After being away for a couple of years, you’d come back and they’d recognize you. Some of them would even know what your order was going to be.” A burger, all-dressed with ketchup, a 15-cent fry, and a Coke in Saint-Laurent’s case.
Louis’ Luncheonette has a long history, stretching back to Louis Balawyder from Saskatchewan and his horse-drawn carriage down by the station. Later, the carriage moved to a permanent spot by Aylmer Bridge. The carriage became a food truck in the ’40s, and later a small diner counter with no seats and standing room for maybe a dozen inside.
“I was delighted when Peter’s family bought the place,” says Saint-Laurent. “Mr. Ellyson used to own the barber shop in the bus station. He used to cut my hair… Yvon, not Pierre. I went to school with Pierre, except we used to call him Peter in those days.”
“He was always a nice guy. And he was always outgoing and friendly, so I can easily understand how he was able to retain his staff and make a success of the operation,” remembers Saint-Laurent.
“It’s been a family-owned business since 1969,” says Pierre Ellyson. His father Yvon bought Louis’ Luncheonette in 1969 and Pierre has been working in the business since. “I was 16 then, and I’m 69 now, so that gives you an idea how long I’ve been doing this.”
When Ellyson graduated college in 1976, his father stepped aside. In 1980 and 1982, new locations were built on east and west King Street. When the old steel Aylmer Bridge was demolished in 1989, they shut down the diner and opened a new downtown location. He opened the Taverne Alexandre soon after.
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