Dixie Lee returns to Liverpool

Nick Moase
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Dixie Lee and the Bursey name go hand and hand in Liverpool, despite the restaurant being gone for 20 years. However that connection will soon be rekindled with the next generation of the family, when the restaurant opens later this week.


David and Diane Bursey's son Andrew is opening the store on Main Street on Nov. 8, barring any last minute snags in the process.

When the store opens there will be plenty of familiar faces as well. Both David and Diane plan to be involved with the operation, and franchise owner Gary Keeley will be down for the grand opening. Keeley was the franchise manager when David started the store in the 1970's.

Andrew's brother Greg has been down helping get the store ready too. Greg managed some of the Dixie Lee's on the South Shore in the 1980's, so is very familiar with the business.

Of course the most important part is the menu, and all of the familiar items from the past will return. The same recipes are being used for the chicken and fish, and the same famous coleslaw recipe will be back as well. There may be a few new items on the menu, and it may be tweaked now and then says Andrew, but the core part will remain the same.


On opening

Andrew was working in Edmonton in 2011 when he heard KFC closing, and he says something sparked in him when he heard the news.

"When KFC closed last September, I said to mom and dad it looks like an opportunity to open a business," he says.

Despite being gone for almost 20 years, the nostalgia for Dixie Lee started almost as soon as KFC closed. Hearing this played a factor in his decision to open up a Dixie Lee in Liverpool again.

It was important for Andrew to find a location on Main Street. 

"I think it's important for the community to not let this side of town go the way of the dinosaur," he says. "The more people we can draw to the downtown core, the more vibrant it will be."


Where it all started

David is originally from Halifax, and worked in Montreal and Halifax in the computer industry in the 1970's. His job was installing large-scale computer systems, and as a data processor manager and systems developer. 

But he felt the need for a change. Tired of working for other people, he wanted to work for himself. Inspired by a cousin that worked in the business, he decided to open a restaurant franchise.

At the time the family was living in Dartmouth, so naturally he wanted to put the store close to home. However David and the franchise manager instead went along the South Shore looking at communities to see if there were other potential locations.

Lunenburg and Bridgewater didn't show any potential, and they almost went past Liverpool. However David spotted a space for lease on the lower level of The Met, now where the Bargain Shop sits. That afternoon he called his wife to tell her he found the spot. By the next day he was in Montreal working out the deal.

The first store opened on Sept. 7, 1972. For most of the time Dixie Lee was in Liverpool, it was nestled under The Met as a take out shop. It later moved to the Waterfront Plaza, where Memories Cafe is now located, with seating for 50. David sold the franchise in 1993, but the store closed soon after.

Over the time he operated the franchise, David had a total of five Dixie Lee's on the South Shore, thought never more than three open at one time.


Doing it right

Andrew is keenly aware of the memories the community has about Dixie Lee, so it's the details that matter. It took a while to get everything set up he says, because they wanted "to do it right." The coleslaw, which many still remember even 20 years later took a bit of work to get right again.

The coleslaw was a popular part of the menu when the store was open. Customers would buy it in big containers, and was hard to keep in stock. For the annual Greenfield Planked Salmon supper, they would fill two or three clean Rubbermaid garbage bins alone.

It came down to the way it is cut. They had to find the right cutter and the right machine to do the job. The model of Hobart cutters they used isn't made anymore, but they managed to track down one for the new store.

"It doesn't taste the same on a different machine," says Diane.

It wasn't just the food people remember. They also raised five children and were active members of the community. David says it was important for them to give back to the community, and they supported many youth community and sports groups.

Andrew says he hopes to build that again in some way.

"We have that in our favour. That was a big player in our decision, just knowing there was that community support," says Andrew. 

Organizations: Bargain Shop

Geographic location: Dixie Lee, Liverpool, South Shore Halifax Montreal Edmonton Dartmouth

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Recent comments

  • Liverpooler
    November 08, 2012 - 20:01

    Opening day was a massive success, many (and that's by far not even close to how many showed up!), made an appearance for the first day! The atmosphere was exciting and expectant while the food was just as delicious as could be. It's great to see another new business opening on Main Street, despite the closure of many other businesses in the area. It's an important assest to the community as we struggle to rebuild ourselves as a community and businesses try to prople local interest. Here's to hoping for a great step in the right direction! Thank you Andrew for your contribution.

  • Jeff Mac
    November 06, 2012 - 20:00

    Thankyou Bursey's for keeping a great vision alive, and Thankyou Andrew for grabbing the bull by the horns adn not being afraid to venture and rebuild a piece of heritage adn flavour for the downtown core. I am sure that many many people will be long time supporters and followers. Cant wait for the shop to open. Congrats!!

  • Pamela West Stewart
    November 05, 2012 - 09:21

    Congratulations Andrew for opening Dixie Lee. All the best to you and your family on this adventure. I know growing up in Liverpool Dixie Lee was a part of my life. And everyone else as well. It is so nice to see this back in town. The Location is great right on Main Street…Can’t wait for my visit to Liverpool for have some good old Dixie Lee. Congrats to all the employees, Town of Liverpool.