For Rhonda Pardy and Greg Crisanti, their business acumen stems from their family roots.
The late Merv Dillabough, a longtime Canadian Tire dealer in Brandon, is Pardy’s father, while Greg’s dad was none other than Vince Crisanti, who was the owner of Cellular Communications Plus Ltd. for years prior to his passing in 2015. Both men played a key role in helping shape Pardy and Crisanti into who they are today.
“I grew up in a franchise family,” said Pardy, who along with her late husband Craig, opened up the first Tim Hortons in Brandon back in 2001. Nowadays, Pardy, 50, owns seven Tim Hortons franchises in Westman, including all five locations in Brandon. “I watched my family start with very little and work their way up and really build success through business.”
“I looked up to those guys as far as getting involved in the community,” said Crisanti, a business partner with Pardy, who currently has a stake in three Tim Hortons locations, including two shops located outside the Wheat City.
Before Crisanti, 31, could take on the role of business partner, his aunt and uncle were busy realizing a dream.
“We knew we wanted to be in business for ourselves, we just weren’t sure what so you spend years building equity and looking for opportunities,” Pardy said.
“We did look at other opportunities but none of them felt right.”
Raised in Newfoundland before moving to Brandon in the early 90s, Pardy says the Tim Hortons idea spoke to her and her husband.
“We couldn’t believe coming into Manitoba, into Brandon specifically, that there wasn’t a Tim’s there,” she said. “So we put in an application.”
Realizing there were a lot of approved applicants for a Tim Hortons franchise in the Wheat City, persistence paid off, she says.
“We told them straight up you could find people with more education and more money but you’ll never find anybody who will work harder than us to make it a success.”
Rhonda and Craig were awarded the first Tim Hortons franchise in Brandon on their 10th wedding anniversary. Soon after, a second location in the city was awarded to them. The 18th Street and the No. 1 Highway now had ‘Tim’s’. Pardy knew it wasn’t going to stop there.
“We just pushed to keep growing,” she said. “We just felt that Brandon could hold more restaurants. Head office was in agreement with that so the other ones just kind of evolved.”
Over the years, additional Tim Hortons locations became a reality in Brandon. Eventually, the Brandon Regional Health Centre, the west end of the city (Victoria Avenue) and the Shoppers Mall had folks sipping ‘double doubles’. OK, maybe not everyone, but you get the idea.
Soon after, the Virden location and just recently, Neepawa, was added to the list of Tim Hortons franchises owned and operated by Pardy.
Approximately six years ago, Crisanti would eventually come into the picture as a partner of the Shoppers Mall location and since that time, has taken on the partner role in Virden and now, Neepawa. Pardy says not only did it give Crisanti an opportunity as a business owner, but it was evident from the get-go that he had what it took to help run operations.
“He’s a real positive guy. He brings great morale and fun to the restaurant. He shared our desire for excellence in the stores. He treats the customers and the team the same way Craig and I did. It’s really the same mindset,” Pardy said.
“Rhonda and Craig are the reasons I got into the business,” Crisanti said with a smile.
Tim Hortons truly means everything to Crisanti. Not only is the Tim Horton’s franchise his ‘baby’ so-to-speak but he also has his own little guy named Jett at home with his wife Carrie whom he met years ago while working part-time at… you guessed it: Tim Hortons.
“She would get off at 7 a.m. in the morning, I’d just be showing up at my shift. The rest is history,” he said with a laugh.
As the years went on, it was evident that the Tim Hortons business was booming in Westman and life was good for the family – that is until early last year when Craig Pardy suddenly passed away.
“Very unexpected,” Rhonda said. “After 25 years of marriage, it took the wind out of our sails. You need some time to recover from that personally.”
She says Craig was one of the happiest guys she ever knew.
“He was a morale booster. He would always put smiles on peoples’ faces and he was a very proud business owner.”
Crisanti agreed with those sentiments, adding that his uncle was one of those guys who could walk into a restaurant and immediately have everyone in stitches laughing.
“Everyone enjoyed having him around.”
Crisanti says losing Craig so suddenly was one of the hardest things his family had ever gone through.
“As tough as it’s been this past year, Rhonda has continued to work extremely hard at the business her and Craig have worked so hard building together here in Brandon. I know he’s extremely happy and proud watching us from up above.”
Rhonda says after taking time to mourn the loss of her husband, it’s now “full steam ahead.”
“I feel like I’m back in the game a little bit,” she said. “The healing has taken place and I think work will help that healing go in the right direction.”
What’s the direction you ask?
Pardy is looking to expand operations in the Wheat City and is hoping to open one, possibly two more Tim Hortons locations in Brandon.