Breen Bentley reflects on 40 years in Stratford and being named 2024 Business Leader of the Year - Grant Haven
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Breen Bentley reflects on 40 years in Stratford and being named 2024 Business Leader of the Year

Breen Bentley reflects on 40 years in Stratford and being named 2024 Business Leader of the Year

By Amanda Modaragamage

The Board of the Stratford and District Chamber of Commerce recently announced Breen Bentley is this year’s Business Leader of the Year.

“The bar business isn’t always easy, but with a lot of hard work, we’ve made it work,” said Bentley, owner of Bentley’s Bar Inn and Restaurant. “I was thinking about this and, you know, I’m proud of myself. I’ve made this business work and now I can show my kids and grandkids. It’s great and I’m really proud of that.”  

Bentley’s work in the restaurant industry started when he was only 10 years old when he was a dishwasher. Later, he honed his skills working in other restaurant positions, eventually leading him to graduate from the Stratford Chef’s School. 

After graduating, Bentley purchased the Jesters Arms, which later moved to its current location where it was renamed Bentley’s Bar Inn and Restaurant. 

“I didn’t have a fancy education or a lot of experience, but I was street smart, in the right place at the right time and driven and determined to make it work.” 

Though many businesses decide to narrow down and target a small portion of the community, or tourists in particular, Bentley says he always based his business on the people of Stratford. He said ensuring everyone feels welcome has brought him a successful 40 years on Stratford’s main strip, and his restaurant is still known as the iconic Stratford pub everyone knows and loves. 

“I wanted to build a place where grandma could come with her friend at lunch and have a quiche and a glass of wine. But I also want it to be the same place at five o’clock that her son could come after work with all the boys to have a beer. And in the same building, his wife comes with all the girls from the volleyball team, and later, the grandson closes up at last call with a couple of shots of Yeager with his friends.” 

Bentley’s is built on bringing together family and friends, as seen from their always-full tables and friendly staff. Not only is Bentely’s a family restaurant for his customers, Bentley also notes that his business is the foundation of his own family, and while he never thought all three of his kids would stay in the restaurant business, they all have. 

“I’m a lucky, lucky guy – the luckiest. All three of my kids are interested in the restaurant business and keep this place alive. I was raised by a mom who taught me about hard work, and I’m doing the same with my kids. I couldn’t be prouder of the kids and I couldn’t have done this without family.” 

He also notes his appreciation for Stratford and being in what he believes is the best city in North America.

“You know, Stratford is full of beautiful churches and places. People here love the city. They are concerned about the Cooper Lot, they’re concerned about the swans in the river, and they all care so much about Stratford. You don’t see this in other cities.

“We’re surrounded by theatre, music and the best theatre in North America. As a city, we are truly blessed. I am blessed to be here in Stratford and I never take that for granted.” 

Bentley and his three children – Breen Jr., Tanner and Brooklynn – will be presented with the Business Leader of the Year award and will be the guest speakers at the 28th annual Business Excellence Awards gala on May 2 at the Best Western Arden Park Hotel. 

The chamber board of directors decides the which local business leader will receive this award each year through a three-step, secret-ballot process. Nominations are put forth, a list is curated and secret ballots are cast. Votes are recast until there is a clear winner. 

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