Trailside Café celebrates 20 years

Twenty years ago the Trailside Café opened for the first time, having been pulled almost from the ashes by Doug Deacon, and was on the way to becoming one of P.E.I.'s most popular music venues.

The Trailside has a long history. In 1937 it started as a commercial centre for Mount Stewart, possibly the province's first Co-op store. When Deacon acquired the building in 1996 it had been abandoned for about 30 years and it was not clear if it could be saved.

"It was in quite a state of disrepair," said Deacon.

"It was under a burn order from the province. We basically got it for the back taxes."

The foundation was gone, the building had sunk into the mud, and Deacon was unsure if it would stand straight on the concrete slab he planned to pour underneath it.

But it did, and Urban Carmichael played the grand opening in September 1997.

A new era

Deacon was busy in the summers, but had nothing at all to do in the winter, and in 2011 decided he needed year-round work. He passed the Trailside torch on to Pat and Meghann Deighan.

The couple had a complimentary business in Back Alley Music in Charlottetown, and booking music has always been a passion for Pat Deighan.

It's something I've been doing since I was about 16 years old when I used to book all ages shows downtown," he said.

"There was the restaurant side we had to get in and become familiar with. That's been a learning experience every year."

Deacon said it has been a great transition, with Deighan bringing connections to a new generation of Island musicians.

Key to the success of the Trailside, Deighan said, is the building itself.

"It's a very special room to listen to music in," he said.

"It's the atmosphere. I think it's been that way from day one."

The 20th anniversary season of the Trailside Café opens April 27 with Ashley Condon.

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