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J.C.’s in Waddington celebrates 35 years of food, family and fun

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WADDINGTON – Bringing families together for good food and fun have been a 35-year tradition in the community thanks to J.C.’s River Run Bar & Grill.

The family restaurant, located at 17 Bowling Court, started out as a bowling alley in 1979, but when interest in bowling waned, owner John R. Chamberlain revamped his business model and converted the lanes into a family restaurant.

“Owning a bowling alley was all I had ever done, really,” Mr. Chamberlain said. But now he says the restaurant is drawing more and more crowds each year.

Over time, Mr. Chamberlain has expanded the 144-by-75-square foot restaurant to include a 24-foot-by-24-foot dining room, an outdoor bar, and patio. The restaurant also has its own seasonal ice cream stand.

Mr. Chamberlain’s daughters have fond memories growing up in the bowling alley, but were supportive of the change, he said.

“We were pretty much raised on the bowling alley lanes,” Jenna, Mr. Chamberlain’s daughter, said Thursday. “I can remember filling the soda machine and the candy machine and getting quarters to fill the pinball machine as a kid. I was always here and pretty much a bowling alley rat.”

Ms. Chamberlain, who works as physical education teacher, still helps out at the restaurant when she can. Her sister, Jill Winters, also works at the restaurant in her spare time.

“A lot of the regulars that we have had over the years have watched my sister and I grow up,” Mrs. Winters said. “It’s a close-knit family atmosphere that extends to non-family members. Everyone knows everyone here. There are no secrets.”

Ms. Chamberlain said many of the same customers frequent the restaurant every Friday and Saturday night.

“We have families from both sides of the border who are here every Saturday night for the last 35 years-for as long as we’ve been here,” Ms. Chamberlain said. “We all know them by name. We are excited to invite everybody back to our patio this summer. We’re excited for our snowbirds to come back. The river up here is beautiful. Anything that can be done to monopolize on that is important for our community.”

The key to drawing in customers, Ms. Chamberlain said, is to remain consistent.

“We pride ourselves on being consistent on the types of food we serve and we try to keep everything the same,” Ms. Chamberlain. “If a customer says they got the best sandwich the first time, then we strive for that the second and third time so that they keep coming back.”

But the restaurant isn’t afraid to experiment. Favorites from French fries to broiled scallops are cooked fresh daily, but cooks also serve up one-of-a-kind entrees like buffalo chicken Alfredo and shrimp wrap-n-rolls.

“The variety is a great mix,” Ms. Chamberlain said. “It’s kid-friendly. We have good food, and a great family atmosphere.”

The restaurant employs up to 20 people in the summer-its busiest season.

“To give 20 people a job in a small community is a great deal is a great thing,” Ms. Chamberlain said. “To be able to employ students in the community and college workers and season and our regular full-timers and they range in any and all ages.”

J.C.’s appeal is its close ties to the community. When a local family’s home was destroyed in a house fire last year, they held a fundraiser and raised $15,000 to help them recoup their losses. The restaurant also hosted the “Redneck Games” to raise money for the 2013 Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown Bassmaster Elite Series tournament in St. Lawrence County.

“Our father is always sponsoring sports teams-little league, baseball, softball-and doing little things like replacing basketball nets,” Mrs. Winters said. “He is always trying to make the community he lives in a better place, all while carving out his niche and making sure that Waddington does not lose its identity.”

To celebrate River Lanes J.C.’s River Run Bar & Grill 35th Anniversary of being a successful business in the community as well as supporting the Village’s efforts to secure the Bassmaster Elite Series for St. Lawrence County Region, the restaurant is hosting a 5K walk / run fundraiser called “Get off Your Bass and Motor Racing Series” May 3.

The first event will take place on Saturday. The course will start and end at River Lanes. Registration beings at 1 p.m., with the official start time of the event 2 p.m. The first 100 participants pre-registered will be guaranteed a commemorative 35th Anniversary Memento that was created especially for this kickoff race. Limited quantities will be available.

Ryan Lalonde from Canada and his act 50 Shades of Magic, an adult-orientated magic and comedy show.

Presale tickets are $10. Tickets cost $15 per person the night of the show. Dinner and a show package $40 per person. Dinner choices include Prime Rib, Broiled (or Fried) Haddock, Chicken Parmesan and our Buffalo Alfredo Pasta Bake

“The Whole Shebang” package is $65 per person and includes race registration, dinner and show package, and the first drink of the evening.

Tickets can be ordered by calling the bowling alley at 388-4462 or by contacting getoffyourbass@gmail.com.

J.C.’s River Run Bar & Grill is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

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