The Big Chubby Idiot. It’s the tongue-in-cheek Instagram account for John Ferguson, Joel Asher and Erik Stone who run a mini restaurant empire in Revelstoke.
These friends from Ontario preside over The Village Idiot, The Big Eddy Pub, and Chubby Funsters, three popular and unique restaurants in town.
As each one followed the other in a quest out west, the turns of fate and saying yes to opportunities has culminated in their business and friendship success today.
The story begins
Night animals Joel and John met in their twenties through their mutual work in the bar industry in Windsor, Ontario. They connected over ideas and similar values and became business partners in 2005 when they opened a nightclub called Jack Rabbit Slims. Later they added an attached lounge called Sidebar.
They knew Erik, the youngest of the three, also through the industry where he worked as a product rep and their bartender. Life was good and things were rolling along nicely until Joel suddenly upped and left in December 2007 for an opportunity in the budding ski town of Revelstoke.
With Revelstoke Mountain Resort about to open, Joel’s Revelstoke friends wanted his help with a food and beverage contract for Revelation Lodge and the Mackenzie Outpost. Joel only had a month to pack up and peace out.
“It was all a weird type of coincidence timing,” Joel says about the move.
That contract ended up being for four years and as life tends to do, opportunities began to evolve in this new home. A building in Revelstoke’s downtown went up for lease and Joel pounced on its potential. He gave Erik a call.
At the time, Erik was meandering around in life and looking for a change.
“I leased it, John sent me all his money and Erik got evicted from his party flat in Whistler,” Joel jokes looking over at Erik. “If you’re gonna tell the story you gotta tell it right.” He turns back with a smirk, “Erik got evicted from Whistler so needed a job and a place to live. And Revelstoke had both of those for him.”
The Village Idiot, today a town favourite, opened in July 2008 with Erik joining as manager a few months later.
Now it was just up to John to move. At the height of the economic crisis, Windsor was stalling —its local auto industry was falling over and bars were fizzling. The opportunity to take over The Big Eddy Pub in late 2010 was what John had been waiting for. He was just a little curious about this town that had drawn not only two of his friends but his dad, and mentor, Chuck.
“Well I immediately started finding out what it was when Joel and I had a bar for six months and he decided to leave,” John pauses and smiles. “But I’ve known about it, since we first started talking about it.”
Joel nods and adopts a grateful stance, “John was a great business partner, who nurtured my need for travel with his patience,” he deadpans.
Over the next few years, the three men focused on their businesses. In 2014, they again saw an opportunity. Erik by then had become legitimate and bought into the partnership (although not The Big Eddy Pub) and together they opened the cocktail lounge Chubby Funsters downtown.
Betting on Revelstoke
The three restaurants are each deliberately unique to not compete with each other and thrive within Revelstoke’s broad food scene.
“I don’t know how many more restaurants the rest the town can handle. But as it is right now, I think it’s pretty well diversified,” John says.
They all have a strong reputation through online reviews and if there was a formula, the men say it is being consistent — in the food they serve and in treating staff well.
“It’s like anything else in life, hopefully the better you get at it or the more you understand it,” Joel says. “A lot of this industry is about liking it. It’s not an easy industry hours-wise. It’s not an easy industry because it’s ever changing so it’s important to keep up.”
While the trio’s mutual backgrounds in hospitality have helped their success, Joel believes a lot of it has come down to pure luck.
“It’s hard to plan change. It either happens to you or it doesn’t I find,” Joel says.
“We always kind of just felt things out and when it was time to do something, we just do it,” John says. “We were single, with no real ties to anything. So it made life easy to kind of do what we wanted to do, when we wanted to do it.”
Getting the three men together for an interview was a challenge, but how often do they see each other in their day-to-day?
“I haven’t seen these guys in two years,” Joel jokes.
They explain they’re in constant contact, if not always in person. “Joel and I see each other pretty much every day. Because we share an office in The Idiot,” Erik says.
They collaborate on the direction and themes of the restaurants but each man is the master of his own domain in general operations. Joel looks after Chubbies and Erik tends to The Idiot, while John sticks to The Big Eddy Pub, on the edge of the city.
“I’m an outcast,” John jokes.
“Ostracized across the bridge,” Joel adds.
The group presents an easy-going and solid team that seems to be without tension.
“On the hard days it’s nice to have some people that all do the same thing,” Joel says. “To share stories with if nothing else.”
“We’ve always felt the same about business,” John says. “It’s never really affected our friendship because we kind of feel the same way about most things.”
Currently the three hold no big plans to grow their empire. Each are partnered down either with kids, or expecting, and their priorities in life have matured. While there may be things they still want to do, there’s something to be said for enjoying the growth of their current interests.
“We always have ideas for what we want to do next, but part of a successful business with successful friendships is also understanding that life happens too,” Joel says. “We all have young families and we want to ensure all our businesses and families are healthy before we undertake more things that take time away from that.”
“It was one thing when we were single, for ourselves to live off $150 a week,” John adds. “The bank account could go to zero trying to open something new, like it did in ‘05, ‘08 and even 2010. We spent every dollar we had to do these places. Now you have people counting on you, it changes things a little bit.”
Growth potential, a rotation of fresh faces to feed plus outdoors to play in, Revelstoke has been a winning combination for these restaurateurs.
Sitting back and taking in what they have achieved, the three appear grateful for the life they have created.
“I wasn’t even thinking past the first winter, to be still be involved is pretty awesome,” Erik says.
Their friendship seems smoothed with the familiarity of time and while they made it through the interview with plenty of laughter and their ongoing game of jabs and one-liners, it might take some time to recover from the limelight.
“Is it possible to add that we don’t want to do anymore interviews?” Joel asks as we finish up. “I assume this has already broken us.”
The Big Chubby Idiot
The Big Eddy Pub – Old school favourite known for its Wednesday night wings. Customers flock to its outdoor beach volleyball net and patio.
Chubby Funsters – The classy one of the three, this cocktail lounge has a drink to suit everyone. Its front patio is popular during Revelstoke’s free Summer Street Fest music series.
The Village Idiot – The anchor of the three restaurants and most popular. Known for its mountain sports decor and amazing pizza.
This story was first published in the August Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine. Pick one up at over 100 public locations across Revelstoke.