The Pride of the Pontiac: Gavan’s Hotel in Quyon, Que. has a new owner
Sure, Jim Cain lives in Ottawa.
But if you ask the CEO and digital marketing executive where he’s from, where his heart is, he will answer with conviction.
“Quyon,” Cain says.
“My grandfather lived here most of his life, my dad was born here. I’m a diplomat brat who grew up all over the world, but we’d always come home to Quyon,” he grins.
You could say Cain and his family have come home again, drawn by the allure of a community gem in need of a little polish. Some say its world-famous.
“When you go out into the world, people go, ‘Quyon? That’s where Gavan’s is, right?'” smiles Cain.
Gavan’s, or Gavan’s Hotel, as it is also known has been called the “Gateway to the Pontiac”. The legendary tavern first opened in 1946, famous for its live music, warm welcomes and raucous St. Patrick’s Day parties.
The late Lennox Gavan and his wife Margaret were the hotel’s dedicated owners and custodians until 1983, championing the people and songs of the Ottawa Valley.
“This is a little village in Quebec that has Irish and French cultures, and we have music and we have a lot of fun,” says musician Gail Gavan’s, the youngest of Lennox and Margaret’s six children.
“This hotel was our living room. We grew up here. And as I got tall enough to reach the cash register standing on a coke box, I could start working.”
“My dad was a proud Irishman. He loved Irish music so much and he wanted to encourage anyone who wanted to play music, to come in and play.”
Lorne and Jim Cain put a new sign in place at Gavan’s Hotel in Quyon. Jim Cain is the new owner of Gavan’s, opened by Lennox Gavan in 1946. (Joel Haslam/CTV News Ottawa)
Gavan’s has been alive with fiddles, guitars and poetic lyricists for more than 75 years. It was the stage for countless talented artists, as well as the gathering spot for impromptu sing-alongs and community jams.
Music is Gavan’s glue.
“If someone came in and didn’t have an instrument, my dad kept a fiddle and guitar behind the bar so music could happen at any time,” Gavan says.
“This bar has always been the heart of our community.”
Lennox Gavan sold his beloved hotel to Nick and Laurena Matechuk in 1983, who upheld Gavan’s musical traditions and worked tirelessly to keep alive the spirit of Quyon’s favourite hotel for 40 years.
Recently, Gavan’s was sold to another person beaming with Pontiac pride–Cain.
“My dad says that I’ve been jokingly talking about buying this bar since I was in my early 20s. I have come here a bunch, my parents came here on their first dates, my grandfather used to call square dances in the town hall,” says Cain.
Jim Cain, with his father Lorne Cain (centre) and his father-in-law, George Hack enjoy a chat at Gavan’s Hotel. Gavan’s has been called the “Gateway to the Pontiac”. It was established by Lennox Gavan and his wife Margaret in 1946. Nick and Laurena Matechuk purchased the hotel in 1983 and were the owners and operators for 40 years, before selling to the Cain family. (Joel Haslam/CTV News Ottawa)
Cain says the digital marketing company he started in 2008 was acquired by a large New York firm in 2021. That acquisition presented an opportunity.
“Not having to be a full-time CEO anymore, I was able to take a step back and say, ‘What are the other things I care about?’ And I jokingly mentioned to my dad, ‘wouldn’t it be fun to make an investment in the town of Quyon?'” says Cain.
“Jim’s always had a place in his heart for Quyon,” says Jim’s dad, Lorne Cain, who was born in Quyon.
“He was looking for something different to invest in and I said, ‘What about Gavan’s?’ And then I said, ‘I’m in, if you’re good to go.’ And here we are.”
“What parent wouldn’t want to be in a project with their son?” Lorne says.
Lorne is currently living at the hotel and overseeing some renovations.
“We’re freshening things up, but not taking away from the ambience that’s always been Gavan’s,” he says.
Jim Cain’s father-in-law, George Hack is also lending his support.
“I thought it was just a marvellous adventure. It’s the sort of thing, if you want to think outside the box, do something that’s on the edge, it’s tremendously exciting,” says Hack.
Gail Gavan, daughter of the hotel’s founder, Lennox Gavan, performs at Gavan’s. She and other musicians will be performing at the hotel’s St. Patrick’s Day party on March 12. There is a second “Drown the Shamrock Party” on March 18. (Joel Haslam/CTV News Ottawa)
Jim Cain sees his purchase as an investment in the community.
“Turning Gavan’s back into a destination for the region. That’s really where most of my emphasis is, right now,” says Cain.
“We don’t have to spend any money on branding. The love is still here, the brand is still here, the excitement is still here. I’ve kind of defined it as taking that spark and giving it oxygen to turn it back into a fire.”
“Taverns are still fun. Where did they all go? This is one of the last one’s standing, and we want to remind people of how amazing those experiences are.”
“We’re very aware that we’re standing on people’s shoulders. The support from the Matechuk family and Gavan family has meant a lot, and has helped create that excitement and momentum,” Cain says.
Gail Gavan is thrilled to see the Cain’s continuing the legacies of her father and the Matechuks.
“I’m so happy that Jim Cain and his family are going to resurrect Gavan’s hotel and reinvigorate the village of Quyon at the same time,” she says.
“My dad would be pretty happy. I think he’s here with us,” says an emotional Gavan.
Gavan’s Hotel is located at 1157 Rue de Clarendon in Quyon, Que.
The hotel is hosting two St. Patrick Day musical celebrations and parties this month. The first is this Sunday, March 12. The second, a “Drown the Shamrock Party”, will be held the day after St. Patrick’s Day on March 18. Details are available at www.gavanshotel.com.
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