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Colchester County family business began with downtown restaurant

The latest exhibit at the Colchester Historeum on Young Street in Truro is sure to spark a lot of memories.

The Sugar Bowl on Inglis Street in Truro was the first ‘Hay’ restaurant.

It features Inglis Street businesses dating all the way back to the 1890s, among them Christie's Motors, a Ford dealership owned by the Glassey family of Truro, A.E. Hunt's Men's Wear, the Stanley Hotel and Gunn's Opera House.

In addition, there is a display featuring the Sugar Bowl, a once popular Truro restaurant which opened in 1946.

It was the brainchild of Don ‘Bun’ Hay who, after returning from serving overseas during the Second World War, with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, purchased the Ice Cream Parlor with his wife Betty and renamed it the Sugar Bowl.

Bill Hay, Bun's son, remembers the “candy counter and the restaurant” while still a youngster in the 1950s.

Later, he started working there.

"At lunch time during my junior high school days I helped out in the kitchen," he said. "That would have been around 1958 or 1959. On weekends I'd go in and bag candy.

"My parents worked long hours. It was a tricky business and a very tough business to be successful at."

During the early 1960s, a major change took place when the Sugar Bowl began serving Kentucky Fried Chicken.

"KFC became the main part of the menu," said Bill.

Bun had many exciting ideas regarding expanding the restaurant business.

"Dad was fairly progressive," Bill said. "He believed in networking and he joined the Nova Scotia Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association.

“As Dad's business extended outside of Truro and he got involved with opening KFC stores my mother took over the Sugar Bowl and ran it for a number of years."

Meanwhile, Bun's vision led to more than 30 restaurants including the House of Hay in Shubenacadie in 1958, the House of Hay in New Glasgow in 1961 and KFC stores in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Maine.

"I think the restaurant business can get in your blood," Bill said. "It's a very social business. People in the industry tend to be good friends and associates."

Preparing for retirement, Bun began selling off KFC outlets in Maine and New Brunswick during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

"Dad retired in 1972," Bill said. "That same year he sold Bob Winters and I the remaining New Brunswick and Nova Scotia stores."

Bill described the friendship that had developed between his father and Colonel Harland Sanders, the founder and creator of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

"Dad was able to get the Colonel to spend about a week with us here in Truro during July, 1976," Bill said. "He was almost a legend in his own time."

‘Bun’ Hay was very involved in community work before his death in 2010 at the age of 88. Besides being president of the Arthritis Society, he was active with the Truro Rotary Club, Operation Eye Sight and helping Third World countries.

He was the founder of Charles Street House for the homeless as well as being a key supporter of a Debert based recovery house.

Betty Hay died in 2003.

More than 40 years have passed since Bill entered the restaurant business and these days his family operates Greco, Captain Sub, Frank & Ginos and KFC outlets. It is truly a remarkable story which began on Inglis Street with a little restaurant known as the Sugar Bowl.

Who could have ever imagined?


Lyle Carter's column appears every Tuesday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a column idea, contact him at 673-2857.

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