Sturgeon's RIV Chip Stand celebrates 50th anniversary

The RIV Chip Stand is a much loved destination in Sturgeon Falls, and over the years, too many people to count have found themselves at 235 Main Street laying down their favourite order. This year, the restaurant is celebrating 50 years of bringing the poutine to the people, and the 50th season is starting this Thursday, March 9th.

Kate and Bruno Lepage are looking forward to the restaurant’s golden anniversary. They’ve owned the place since 2017, and before this, both had long careers in the food service and hospitality business. The two met while working in New Orleans, but decided to return to Bruno’s home town to raise their family and ideally, open a restaurant, which had been a dream of the couple for some time

That dream materialized once they purchased the business from Jeannot, Lorraine, and Carole Gervais and Norm Ethier, who had run the RIV from 1995 to 2017. Before this, Larry and Joanne Lennon ran the RIV from 1991 to 1995.

It was founded by Julien and Carmen Ferlatte in 1973. The Ferlattes ran the Riviera Restaurant which burned down that year, so they opened the Little Riv, named in honour of their first location. Eventually, the ‘little’ was lost, and the RIV still stands 50 years later in the same location the Ferlattes chose in ’73.

“The RIV was our chip stand growing up here,” Lepage recalled, so operating the place alongside his wife is like coming full circle. Plus, their oldest daughter also works with them in the summer months, and their youngest daughter will be joining the team this summer as well.

For any business or restaurant to survive half a century is a noteworthy achievement, and the Lepage’s, with their history of hospitality, are certainly aware of this fact. However, from the beginning the RIV was built with customer service in mind, and of course, providing delicious food time and time again.

The anniversary “is also a testament to the previous owners,” Bruno said. “They did a great job, and we’re very conscious of the legacy of the RIV chip stand.” After all, generations have grown up with the RIV, “and we want to maintain that nostalgia, that tradition, and we work really hard to keep the RIV authentic” to its origins, Bruno said, and “very genuine to its roots,” Kate added.

As always, the two will have rotating specials on the menu, but no firm plans have been made to create an anniversary poutine dish, or something along those lines. However, they plan to have some special events to announce over the summer to make their golden anniversary more special. This might involve a charity event for the local food bank, Epilepsy North Bay, or the local women’s shelter—a few of the causes the couple like to support.

See: Charitable chip stand

After 50 years, it’s difficult not to get a bit of a reputation, and the RIV is known far and wide for the quality of its culinary delights. Bruno noted the restaurant has been mentioned on Food Network a few times, and BuzzFeed ranked their poutine in the top-10 of Canada.

The two also make great efforts to source most if not all their food from Ontario. The potatoes come from Azilda—just down the road aways—and all the beef is Ontario raised as well. “We really aim to source the best quality ingredients we can get within the province.”

With quality food and a 50-year history of service behind them, the couple is sure the RIV will carry on for a long time to come. “We really take pride in that legacy that’s been established,” Bruno said, “and we try to be good stewards of that legacy and keep carrying it on.”

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,