Dildo hoped to profit from a post-Kimmel boom – then the pandemic came

Sulagna Sanyal (left) and Rajesh Menon opened Yes B’y Indian Restaurant in the Dildo community in Newfoundland last summer. (Chris O’Neill-Yates / CBC)

When Sulagna Sanyal and Rajesh Menon drove to the Dildo community in eastern Newfoundland for the first time in August 2019, they were surprised by the traffic jam on the main road and the booming businesses along them.

The couple had traveled to Newfoundland from Fort McMurray, Alta., To see a beachfront property they were considering buying. They were unaware that the frenzy in the city was the result of American talk show host Jimmy Kimmel’s obsession with the name of the city and the publicity it generated.

“You didn’t expect that kind of crowd. We later learned about Jimmy Kimmel’s show and that they talked about Dildo,” said Menon.

With experience in business, they saw the community as an ideal place to fulfill their dream of living by the sea and having their own business.

In 2019, Jimmy Kimmel was never tired of the tiny Dildo community in Newfoundland. (Jimmy Kimmel Live / YouTube)

In December, Sanyal and Menon moved to Dildo, and last summer opened Yes B’y Indian Restaurant – the only Indian restaurant in rural Newfoundland.

“We realized that in 80 kilometers there is no Indian food,” said Sanyal.

Since leaving India seven years earlier, the couple has lived in Alberta and British Columbia, but said he fell in love with Dildo and the house he saw there instantly.

“We have never heard of such a beautiful place,” said Sanyal. The couple sat and talked for two hours before deciding, “This is it.”

“So we left our jobs – well-paying jobs – and said, ‘Let’s start over.'”

High hopes dashed

His new beginning came when the excitement about Kimmel’s ad campaign was at its height. Business owners were betting on tourists from all over North America putting Dildo on their travel itinerary in 2020.

Kimmel’s on-air companion, Guillermo Rodriguez, had even gone to the city for a week in 2019 and broadcast segments with locals. Tourists packed that summer and Dildo achieved the kind of fame that advertising dollars couldn’t buy.

But three months after Sanyal and Menon moved to Dildo, the pandemic hit. When the 2020 tourism season began, any hope of a massive influx of visitors was replaced by the struggle to keep its business running without customers.

Angela Reid, co-owner of Dildo Brewing, is another business owner who has seen the anticipated boom burst.

Sanyal and Menon made their restaurant a place to go because of the restrictions of COVID-19 and had great support from so-called staycationers. (Chris O’Neill-Yates / CBC)

Reid hoped that American tourists, in particular, would show up en masse, before pandemic regulations prevented them from entering Canada.

“All of our business here in the community, we were all accelerating and getting excited about the coming season because of all the Jimmy Kimmel hype,” said Reid. “So it was a disappointment, for sure. We all thought, ‘Ugh!'”

But companies understood that keeping people safe came first, Reid said, and adapted to health guidelines when they were finally able to reopen.

Saved by staycationers

Sanyal and Menon made their restaurant a place to go because of COVID-19 restrictions and had to rely on “staycationers” – residents of Newfoundland and Labrador who made trips close to home.

“It’s been a roller coaster ride for sure,” said Menon. “Traveling was almost dead, but with [staycations] was revived. “

Most people who came to the restaurant during the summer already had some idea of ​​what Indian food is, said Menon. But the couple wants to expand their clientele and attract more local customers.

“Many members of the local community are coming and saying, ‘We are here trying Indian food for the first time. What do you have that is neither too hot nor too spicy? ‘”Said Sanyal.

Angela Reid, co-owner of Dildo Brewing Co., anticipated a business boom this year, before the pandemic began. (Chris O’Neill-Yates / CBC)

They are making some less spicy dishes and are doing well, especially at the shed parties they were invited to, she said.

Sanyal and Menon say they have no plans to give up after facing a pandemic during their first summer in the business world.

WATCH | Jimmy Kimmel’s comic campaign to become Mayor of Dildo drew international attention to the small port community in 2019:

Jimmy Kimmel wants to be mayor of Dildo, NL, and has now dispatched his assistant Guillermo to garner support. 0:58

At Dildo Brewing Company, Reid is optimistic that a corner has been turned.

“Now that we have a vaccine, we hope the trip starts soon … Many people are really looking to travel,” she said.

The people in Dildo also haven’t given up on the idea that Kimmel will make an appearance in the city one day. If he does, Menon jokes that he may have a bone to argue with.

“I keep saying [Sanyal] that we should ask Jimmy Kimmel to pay 20 percent – because of him, I think we ended up paying 20 percent more for the house. “

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