Anyone who has been to Port Perry has more than likely also been to the Piano Café. Located in a century building, on the corner of Perry and Queen Streets, this iconic spot is the brainchild of its owner Christy Stone-Curry, who together with her husband, Rob, operate this thriving enterprise.
First, a little background on the couple who operate this well-known establishment: Rob, with his heavy British accent, was born in the Netherlands, and travelled the world with the McLaren Formula 1 Racing Company.
Around the same time, Christy Stone, was born in Port Perry and raised in Peterborough, then moved back to town. At 16, she was working toward a degree in Human Resources and upon graduation, worked for IBM in their H.R. department. In 2002, this local entrepreneur started the Piano Café.
Enter a third person, one George Curry, who was sitting in his flat in London watching the ‘telly,’ and saw the film ‘Fly Away Home’, which of course was based on a project by Port Perry legend, Bill Lishman. George was so taken by the film and the surroundings, that he decided to come to Canada, specifically Scugog Township, to see the place.
He immediately fell in love with the area and stayed here. He was a frequent visitor to the Piano Café and became chatty with the staff. In fact, he was so regular, Christy immortalized his favourite beverage, George’s Ginger Latte, which is enjoyed by many people.
Unfortunately, George met with a fatal traffic accident in 2004, and his brother Rob came to Port Perry to make the funeral arrangements. A small wake was to be held at the Piano Café, and Rob met Christy, when she went to pay her respects. The two immediately hit it off, and when Rob returned home to the UK, he flew to Port Perry regularly to see Christy. It was not long until Rob decided to move to Canada, and wedding plans were made, one year after their initial meeting.
The couple ran the Piano Café together until 2008, when the entrepreneurs opened the Piano Inn, an upscale B&B located above the Café. There are now five luxurious rooms, complete with all the amenities one would want. “It took a while to renovate the building, because we wanted to bring it back to its original state of 1884,” Christy explained. “There were also tenants upstairs, and we could not take the premises over until their leases were up.”
I asked Christy where the name, ‘The Piano Café and Inn’ originated, as there is no piano inside. Laughingly she replied, “We did have a piano, when we first opened, but it was moved out when they shot a film series. We decided to leave it out permanently.”
The film created a big boost for the Café, when the West Wing television show decided to film inside the Port Perry icon. This opened up an entirely new element for the establishment.
Since that first film shoot, there have been many more, including a Burger King commercial, which saw people jumping from the second floor window. “The cast of Game of Thrones visited us,” Christy explained, “but I am not sure why they were there, as they were not filming anything.” Port Perry and the Piano Cafe and Inn, have been the setting for numerous Hallmark films, as well as the American Gods franchise.
Recently, Christy and Rob purchased the building they are in, and expanded to include ‘Mathew’s Ice Cream Shop’, a great summer spot, named after their son.
I asked Christy what the future holds, as this is not a family who sits still for long. She recently passed her real estate exam, with the intent of developing a newly purchased property, north of Port Perry. “The pandemic hit us hard,” Christy confessed. “It hit everyone hard, and we were grateful for the film industry, which kept us afloat. The restaurant has always only been open for lunch only, so take out was not a big option during the lockdowns.”
Business is starting to bounce back, and it is nice to see patrons inside the Piano Café, as well as on the large patio in front. The ice cream shop will remain open until the fall, at which time it will fold into the restaurant for the winter season. The Inn is also open and a great place to stay. I for one look, forward to getting back to the famous grilled cheese sandwiches, offered by the Piano Cafe.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. His show, ‘The Jonathan van Bilsen Show,’ on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube, features many of the people included in this column.