This is Cher Diller and Jason Strohan, from Saskatoon, owners of Parlor and St Tropez Bistro.
Jay is 46 years old and was born and raised in Saskatoon. He has been in the hospitality industry pretty much his whole life. His parents bought their first restaurant when he was 12 years old. He worked as a dish washer, busboy, server, prep cook, head chef, back to server, manager, you name it, he’s done it. Even today, he knows how to do and will put himself to the task for whatever is needed in the business. St Tropez Bistro is a family owned restaurant that was first opened by his parents. His stepfather was a chef so he learned his cooking skills with him and everything else he learnt hands on from a young age growing up in that environment. A part from his passion for hospitality, Jay used to be very active in painting and is very passionate about arts. He also loves gardening. On top of taking care of their 1000 square feet patio garden, he cultivates and forages fruits and veggies on the farm land that he and Cher bought a few years ago.
Cher was born and raised in Prince Albert, lived in Moose Jar and in Regina before moving to Saskatoon some twenty years ago. She never intended to stay there but then she met Jay and her plans changed. Cher has been working in hospitality since she was 18 years old. She worked in pubs and nightclubs for a while, but eventually switched career to become a professional hair dresser. She came out of her server retirement when Jay’s mother asked for help at the restaurant during Christmas season. She started serving again to lend a hand. As Jay’s parents were stepping back from the business, she started cutting back on her hairdressing and being more present at the restaurant. After she and Jay got married, she moved her saloon into her basement and if she hasn’t stopped cutting hair for the past twenty years, she does so part-time now while she also owns and operates a restaurant and a bar. A part from her work, Cher danced for most of her young adult life. Today, she has a lot of interest in fitness and still has a passion for dancing and going to the ballet.
The restaurant and bar that they own are located in the same building, one above the other. If St Tropez Bistro has been up and running for a long time, in 2019 Cher and Jay decided to open Parlor, a speakeasy inspired by the prohibition era. The couple was introduced to high quality cocktails made with fresh ingredients on their many trips to Hawaii. So they decided to add to the offerings of their city and create a speakeasy: “Down the line, it was about creating a space offering that we loved and if we loved it, then other people are going to like it as well”. Since they opened Parlor, Cher mostly takes care of the bar and Jay of the restaurant. Of course, they work everywhere, but they each have their little kind of areas of specialties. Jay is commonly referred to as “dad”. He prefers the quieter, more formal and semi-fine dining style of the restaurant, while Cher likes to turn the music up and the lights down in the bar upstairs.
Overall, we were pretty impressed by the amount of work these two people get done together. Running a full bar plus a restaurant, part-time hairdressing, now having a farm as well… Least to say is that these two know how to get sh*t done. That being said, one could expect to meet very busy people that are a bit overwhelmed with work, but the impression they made on us was quite the contrary. They greeted us with a lot of warmth and really took the time to meet with us and to tell us about their story. They appeared as two very passionate people that truly care about hospitality at its core, making people have a great time and enjoy the pleasures of life. It was one of our favorite meetings and we hope to be back in Saskatoon to actually sit at their bar and taste the food from the gardens. A coup de coeur we highly recommend to anyone passing through the prairies!
A little bit more about Cher & Jay...
The three words that describe them best:
C: outgoing – a little bit spicy – empathetic
J: hard-working – respectful – friendly
The one drink that made them fall in love with cocktails:
C: Spin Spin Sugar, a signature cocktail made with sparkling wine at Twelve Six bar.
J: An Old Fashioned.
Their biggest strength as bar owners:
C: Organization, attention to detail, and knowing how to delegate.
J: Numbers, costs, and percentages.
The biggest challenge they faced as bar owners:
C: Finding the right staff. Having people that have the same work ethic as you.
J: Delegating. Since it’s his family restaurant for so long, he’s very used to do everything himself so delegating has been very hard for him.
A piece of advice for future bar owners:
Make sure that you’re able to work in your place, don’t just open it up and rely on other people without understanding how to run your own place. And if you’re looking just at investing, you might as well put all of that money in the back seat of a car, drive as fast as you can down the highway and roll down the windows. The money that’s going to blow back in from the window is about as much as you’re going to get from it.