History of the Bonnie Brae as told by Audrey MacPhee
In 1969 Audrey and Alex MacPhee opened the Bonnie Brae Restaurant in Cornwall. It was due to the encouragement of their good friends Blois & Edith MacPhail that the couple decided to build the restaurant. The MacPhails had opened the Sunny King Motel and believed it would be a good idea to have a restaurant close by. The MacPhees had been living in New Haven at the time and had a young family. Originally, Audrey and Alex only planned for a one storey restaurant, but as they began building a friend had suggested that they build a second level, so, a second storey was added. The upper level was not ready by the time the restaurant was complete, so it was not until that fall that the MacPhee family was able to move into the home they created on the second floor.
The restaurant was very well received right from the beginning. The MacPhees had never announced their grand opening, but it turned out that they didn’t need to. To the disbelief of the MacPhees, the restaurant was packed full the first night. “The Brae” became a very popular restaurant in Cornwall and was “the place to go” after Saturday night dances at the Lions Hall. Audrey and Alex put in many long hours. They would open the restaurant at seven o’clock in the morning and stay open until one o’clock the following morning. The restaurant seated approximately one hundred to one hundred and ten people. They also hosted events like wedding receptions and hockey banquets. Audrey would help out wherever she was needed; she would do everything from the cooking, preparing pastry, waitressing, cleaning and payroll. At times it was difficult to get help, and at times it was not. The MacPhees hired a lot of young people from the community and surrounding communities. It was a very busy time for the MacPhees but they enjoyed operating the restaurant.
When asked how they decided on a name for the restaurant, Audrey recounted the story about how they came up with the name Bonnie Brae. The couple had decided they wanted a Scottish name. They also wanted a name that rolled off the tongue and something that could shortened. They came up with Bonnie Brae. A brae is a small hill or slope, and the restaurant is at the top of a small hill. “The Brae” could be a short form of Bonnie Brae. After throwing around a few other potential names, they kept coming back to Bonnie Brae, and the rest is history!
The MacPhees operated the restaurant until 1977 when they sold it to Peter Haulderman and Hans Anderegg. The two new owners kept the same name and in 1987 made some major renovations and changes, the seating capacity almost doubled. Eventually those two men sold the restaurant and it became the Roadhouse. The Roadhouse operated for several years before it was bought by Fadi Rashed who transformed it into Sam’s Restaurant. After several renovations and changes over the years, the restaurant looks quite different from its original state, but still operates as a Sam’s Restaurant.
Bonnie Brae Menu, Courtesy of Audrey MacPhee