By Jonathon Brodie/London Community News / Twitter: @jonathonbrodie
Customers at James Place received a side silver medal with their bacon and eggs special Thursday morning (Aug. 2).
“I anticipated that it would be pretty busy, but I didn’t expect it to be over the top like you couldn’t find any seats type of thing,” said Theo Giannopoulos, one of three family owners of the Clarke Road establishment.
The seats of James Place have been reserved for the women’s rowing team since the 90s where they eat breakfast in between practices at Fanshawe Lake, but on this day the ladies couldn’t get a table at the restaurant if they wanted to.
“I think about 150 to 170 people have come through the doors today,” the owner added, crammed in his own place with only standing room available in the roughly 140-person capacity main room to watch the Canadian women’s eight rowing team pick up a silver medal at the Summer Olympics.
The three waitresses and owners hustled around from table-to-table taking orders off the menu that has a special section dedicated to the women rowers with an athlete’s choice food list endorsed by professional nutritionists complete with a spinach and feta omelet and fresh fruit smoothies.
The staff did find some time to take a break from the early morning rush, though.
“Everyone knew that everything was going to stop for five minutes, so we could watch the event and then back to work,” Giannopoulos said.
Some of the breakfast viewers couldn’t even stomach the French toast, their nerves shot throughout and before the race where the Canadians finished behind the Americans by 1.41 seconds.
“I’m too excited too eat,” said Andrea, 41, her mouth covered by her hands during the final heat with small whispers of encouragement coming from behind them for two rowers she calls friends (Andreanne Morinand Janine Hanson). “I was nervous because I’ve listened to them talk about how important this is to them and how they were working to get there, but it looks as if they left it all on the course.”
For the biggest group dominating James Place, the silver medal hits home.
All 45 employees from Hudson Boat Works cheered the women rowers on as the female athletes pushed themselves in a vessel hand crafted by workers at the London-based boat manufacturers.
“I’m absolutely and incredibly proud…These are the guys, our craftsman, that build the boat and it’s a very high level and exacting standard to try and build something that’s going to compete on a world stage,” said Craig McAllister, Hudson Boat Works commercial manager. “The athletes at that level have a choice to row in whatever they want to row in and the fact that they’re rowing a Hudson is a testament to the work these guys put in.”
Like the Canadian women's eight rowing team that helped give feedback on the Hudson boats, the Forest City company has hit a high standard as well with the silver medal.
“We see ourselves on the podium, but like all athletes we’re trying to raise ourselves a couple levels,” McAllister said.
In recent weeks a mural running the length of the top half of the wall where the female athletes regularly enjoy their daily breakfast at James Place was painted, depicting the rowers training on Fanshawe Lake. The only thing now missing from the restaurant is some Olympic hardware.
“I’m ready to see those silver medals,” Giannopoulos said. “I’m sure they’re going to make their rounds to all the people that support them and have a personal relationship with them like the restaurant.”