A Duce Family Tradition
The Sherwood Inn Restaurant was opened February 4, 1961, primarily to attract customers to the Sherwood Motel next door. The restaurant was originally a coffee shop and a dining room with a sliding door as a separator for large functions. The coffee shop had stools and a counter for single seating, and The Sherwood’s famous booths along the bow window created a seating capacity of 37. The Dining Room had seating for 44 with a mural painted by Mr. Ernie Duce the owner of the building. He along with Mr. Peter Lucek and Mr. Paul Kuchma were the original partners in the Restaurant.
Charcoal steaks and ribs were the featured entrees, a novel feature at the time because the Sherwood was one of the first restaurants to use charcoal broilers. The novelty didn’t come without a price. In 1972, there was a fire at the restaurant caused by the charcoal broiler. Another then innovation was introduced; automatic fire extinguishers. The Sherwood reopened in April of 1972.
In 1974 the Nottingham Room was built, and the LLBO licensed the Sherwood. To commemorate the addition, the name of the restaurant changed to the Sherwood Restaurant and Tavern. The banquet room became licensed for 171 people, and weddings were a main feature at the Sherwood.
As part of being licensed by the LLBO, the stools in the coffee shop were removed to put in a Bar separation. Although it was never the intent to be just a bar, the LLBO insisted on removing the stools. Further renovations were also made to the building, moving the original washrooms from the main floor to their present location downstairs. With the addition of the Nottingham room, and increase in customers, the move and expansion of the facilities were a necessity.
Along with the construction of the Nottingham room, the house at 8 Locks Road, behind the Sherwood, was purchased and torn down to enlarge the parking area. Around this same time, sewers finally came to Locks Road and a central sewer was put in allowing the original septic system to be removed and covered with pavement to make the parking lot behind the Sherwood the size it is today.
April 1975 marked the beginning of Sunday Smorgasbord at the Sherwood. Since the banquet room was mostly used for banquets Monday to Saturday, it sat empty most Sundays. Still running today, the Sunday Smorgasbord has featured many different varieties of food over the years, and in Sherwood tradition, always in quantities worthy of Robin Hood and his merry men. However, the Smorgasbord Buffet is now located in the main dining room.
January 1979 marked a changing of the guard for the Sherwood as Dennis Duce, son of Ernest, purchased the shares of the operating partners and took over control of the Sherwood. Starting fresh, Dennis introduced the Sunday Brunch in March of 1979, the first Sunday Brunch in Brantford. Brunch and Smorgasbord on Sundays have become a family affair and continue to be very busy at the Sherwood to this day.
In 1981, Dennis with the help of his father Ernest, built an addition on the Sherwood, adding 70 seats to the Dining room and tripling the size of the kitchen. During this same time the “Castle Room”, a small banquet facility, was built in the basement of the new addition. This Room had a Mural of a Castle, painted by Mr. Ernest Duce, and was licensed for 36 people. The Castle Room has been closed to customers, being used for Catering Equipment.
In 1982 with the enlarged kitchen facility the Sherwood began it’s catering operation. With a meager beginning, the catering department has become an anchor of the business. The Sherwood is well known for Long Point beach weddings (including for Dennis’ son), Waterdown’s annual Fish Fry’s, catering Simcoe’s Travelodge Hotel, The Adventures on the Grand for Sunday Brunch, and catering to a variety of functions from picnics to full course weddings.Sherwood Catering was the preferred caterer for the Hamilton Harbour Queen, which operated cruises in the city of Hamilton’s beautiful harbourfront. The Sherwood has also catered the last 17 Lobsterfests at the Brantford and District Civic Center serving up to 1300 people. Believing that there is no event to big, or event to small, the Sherwood has also catered to Bay Street in downtown Toronto for Union Gas and Strathroy for corporate holiday dinners.
In 1985 with growing demand for parking the Sherwood purchased 7 Locks Road and tore down that house for more parking. This is the Parking lot across the road from the main parking lot and is behind the adjacent Garage and Service Center.
In 1995 the Sherwood added two wheelchair washrooms on the main floor and added a wheelchair ramp for easy access to the building. If only we knew what we know now, the washrooms would never have been put downstairs in 1975!
In 1999 the Sherwood was completely renovated with new carpet, ceramic tile and a new design for the Nottingham Room, with 7 chandeliers and a drapery for the mural. A new menu was introduced in March of 2000 to get ready for the New Millennium.Shining Stars Award.
On October 8th, 2003 the Sherwood was honoured as the FIRST recipient of the “Restaurant of the Year Award” at the First Annual Shining Star Tourism Awards Banquet. The “Shining Stars” award is a concept created by Tourism Brantford with the goal of the program to honour local businesses and individuals for their outstanding contribution to the tourism industry.
On June 2nd, 2006, Dennis along with the Sherwood was honoured by the Brantford Rotary Club with a Vocational Services Award. This award was presented to Dennis and the Sherwood in recognition of their Vocational Excellence and Community Service.
The Duce family tradition for excellence and hard work that began in the Sherwood with Ernest Duce lives on in Ernest’s son Dennis. Dennis’ expertise lies in the culinary arts and his uncompromising attention to the details that make the visitor’s dining or catering experience one that they will long remember.
In March of 2013, the Main Dining room was renovated to move the Buffet table from the Nottingham Room to the center of the Dining Room. This was done to make the Friday, Saturday and Sunday Roast Beef, Perch and Haddock buffet more prominent and permanent. On the special days like New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, the Buffet table, now on wheels, is pushed back to its original location in the Nottingham Room. This allows for more customers to enjoy the buffet in the big room.
The Sherwood Decor
Over the years, many people, especially children have expressed interest in the many murals and paintings throughout the restaurant and banquet rooms. They were all done by Mr. Ernest Duce, who was not only an accomplished artist but also a true artisan, who designed, built and decorated the Sherwood Restaurant and the Sherwood Motel next door.
He would commonly build from dawn to beyond dusk, found late at night working on the massive murals that grace the building. His ability to do a wide variety of things was unique, including both carve and play his violins.
The different scenes in each of the paintings are of no particular place. In fact, these scenes are right out of Mr. Duce’s memory of places where he traveled in England and Canada’s East Coast. A true example of his impressive creative talents; he never used a “model”.
In memory of Mr. Ernest Duce, we dedicate this story of the paintings in the Sherwood. We hope you will continue to enjoy both his restaurant and his paintings.
The origins of Sherwood Restaurant and Catering begin with the exploits of Robin Hood, Little John, Friar Tuck, and Maid Marion in the original Sherwood Forest in England in the 12th century.
It was natural to choose the name “Sherwood” for a restaurant because the characters of Sherwood were a friendly band who ate well. They ate especially well compared to the average English peasant of the day, who was often one step from starvation because of King John’s oppressive taxes.
With the stories of Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, and Maid Marion in mind, three men, Mr. Ernest Duce, Mr. Peter Lucek, and Mr. Paul Kuchma, decided to open the Sherwood Inn Restaurant in 1961. Envisioned as a place for good food, reasonable prices, and family gathering, the Sherwood has operated for 56 years, has served millions of customers, and has a long and storied history.