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It’s not business, it’s family: advice from Pajo’s Fish & Chips

The brainchild of Patricia (Pat) Branch, Pajo’s Fish & Chips first set sail in 1985 and has been owned and operated by her family since. But the definition of family-owned extends much further than her daughter, Cindy Plumb, now acting as President and CEO. Family is also the culture at Pajo’s. It’s more than a restaurant, it’s a community staple in all four of their locations. And to them, everyone is an integral part of their business and their lives.

“As a seasonal business, it’s hard to find and maintain a team that comes back year after year,” said Plumb. “That’s why we’ve created a ‘family’ culture.” Something Pajo’s is known for many years. When you walk into a Pajo’s you know it’s not just a business. It’s a family.

We sat down with Plumb (aka Captain Cindy), to find out how her family’s oceanfront restaurants have weathered every storm in the last 35 years.

What’s one interesting thing about yourself?

I took over this position in 2015 for a variety of reasons, but get truly excited when I look back at how far I have come, how much I have learned, and even more exciting what is still yet to come through the process development of Traction and Lean Principles!

What was the inspiration behind Pajo’s?

My mom, Pat, is the original inspiration behind Pajo’s.  My father was a fisherman, so my mom was frequently around the docks and boats.  My mom also never sits still and has a true entrepreneurial spirit, so when she saw Barb’s Fish & Chips at the Inner Harbour in Victoria, she knew it was something she wanted to try in Steveston and jumped right in, and the rest is history.

Why did you create this business specifically? Why didn’t you settle for working for an established shop?

As noted above, Pat had always had an entrepreneurial spirit and she has been quoted as saying, “once you have had the satisfaction and excitement of working for yourself, there is no turning back!”

It’s been a year since COVID-19, how’s it been going for you

Pajo’s has an amazing team of employees.  When COVID-19 hit there was so much concern about what was going to happen.  But everyone rallied and did what was necessary to put safety protocols in place and be the best that they could so that we were able to stay open. As we were already in an outdoor setting with a sit-down or take model, we were able to switch to take-out only relatively easily. Of course, it has been a very difficult year, but with the above three components, all of us in the ‘Pajo’s family’ have been grateful to be able to remain stable.

What’s helped you adapt and survive?

Our team of employees is the biggest component of our survival, followed by the loyal customers.   Along with that, help from the government grants has allowed us to continue to employ many of our team and schedule more employees to help manage/guide our customers in COVID-19 safety line-ups, ordering etc.

What has been the biggest benefit of being a business owner overall?

A quote from Pat, “There is nothing in life that can rival the satisfaction of watching something that you have created grow to be a successful, thriving business. The reward of being part of an exciting, independent working business (although stressful at times) is a lifestyle that is impossible to beat.  But always be prepared for the roller coaster ride!”

What’s practical advice you wish someone gave you when you were starting?

Another quote from Pat “If someone could have told me to always expect and prepare for the unexpended, life might have been smoother.  Entrepreneurs always look to the positive side so a reminder that there would likely be some rough patches and unexpected ‘bumps’ along the way and to ‘hang in there’ may have been helpful.  And lastly – be prepared for the long ride – I wish that an angel on my shoulder would have been able to tell me that 36 years later, Pajo’s would have grown and continues to be a successful thriving business. Who would have known?

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