Local business, Minto, New Brunswick, Profile

Queen of Minto’s castle refuses to give up

Pauline Johnson, owner of medieval-themed pub La-Kassa-We in Minto, says that her dreams of owning a castle are slowly coming true.

Johnson, who has dedicated the last two and a half years to designing and building the castle-replica restaurant in her hometown, said that she remembers telling a friend as a teenage that she would someday own a castle.

“Sometimes you just jokingly say things like that,” she said. “I think if it’s something that stays in your subconscious all these year, you tend to build those things.”

La-Kassa-We, which has yet to open officially, was crafted entirely by hand by Johnson, her father and friends. The building resembles a castle of the 1800s, featuring hand-painted designs by Fredericton-based muralist Ron Sajack. The inside is furnished with logs from Johnson’s father’s property, real rock from a gravel pit in Minto, and locally and personally-made items that have a style which Johnson refers to as being “stuck between the Flinstones and the Munsters.”

“People need a place like this,” she said. “It’s depicted in the 1800s because back then it was a very simple-living kind of way and that’s what I wanted to bring back… I believe in things that are from the earth. People had longevity [back then]. Now, I question that. I’m trying to keep my place as natural as possible to keep my patrons as healthy as possible and hopefully they have longevity, as well as I, to enjoy this place. This place is built out of heart.”

La-Kassa-We’s menu items are simple and not necessarily medievally-themed themselves. What inspired Johnson’s menu is the different foods she has tasted while travelling and playing music since she was 14, and the fact that she does not believe in foods cooked with grease.

“There’s no deep-fryers in my kitchen. You’re going to get Cornish hens, ribs, homemade baked beans and baguettes and things like that,” she said. “Your tummy’s just going to be full. It’s good healthy food.”

Johnson said that she has experience some struggles during the two years she’s been building the nearly-finished restaurant. Recently, La-Kassa-We fell victim to a series of thefts from local business in the village. She said that $2500-worth of cooking equipment was stolen, but she has chosen to move on and look beyond it all.

“The truth will come out someday, and if it doesn’t, so be it,” she said. “I don’t want to see that fear and disappointment inflicted onto this castle.”

To make a positive situation out of a negative one and do greater good for the community, Johnson hosted a meeting to organize a neighbourhood watch committee after the thefts and has hosted weekly jam sessions at the pub.

“This place really does belong to the community… If it can be used in a positive way – which it always will be, because I won’t allow any negativity to inflict this place – then so be it, because the people in this town need to be a aware of things go around in their town.”

Alton Morell, a close friend and supporter of Johnson, says that she has done nothing but good for the small village and its surrounding areas.

“Pauline has created something beautiful during hard times,” he said. “She puts a smile on everyone’s face and she has forced us to talk about important issues. She’s a true persevering leader and her business is a staple of that.”

Despite the setbacks, Johnson said that she will not give up and that the “little kicks in the pants” only force her to keep going. She plans to finally get her castle open for business very soon and make a landmark out of it that will promote growth in the community.

“Yeah, it’s been a bit of a struggle,” she said. “But we’re built with a big heart and so much strength and courage. We just need to dig deep inside because it’s there. If you truly believe in your idea, you truly believe that it’s good for the animal kingdom and humanity… how can it be wrong?”

Originally written for a class at St. Thomas University.