Heartwood Restaurant — full of heart

Becky McPhee and Shanti Nordholt-McPhee  Photo: Hailey Voorand

Two Valley sisters see their dreams come true as they launch a family restaurant in Combermere on October 6, 2018. Becky McPhee and Shanti Nordholt-McPhee will realize their shared vision of a place to do all of the things they love — gathering people together, celebration, good music, delicious food, family, community and having a place that people can come to where they feel like it’s home.

Speaking to Becky and Shanti is exciting. The sisters finish sentences for each other to describe this, their first working relationship. Shanti says,

We agree on pretty much everything.

Becky chimes in saying,

We have the same vision, same goals in life, same taste in stuff.

Not only are they best friends, but they each have two daughters the same ages who are very close.

Shanti continues,

We just enjoy spending time together. Both of us are at the point in life where we’ve been working for somebody else for years and years and that’s been great and putting all of our energy into building [those] different businesses, but now we feel like we want to do something. It’s almost like a legacy for our families.

Legacy is a critical piece for the McPhee sisters. Their late father, Donald McPhee, had his own business in Rockingham called Heartwood Guitars where he worked as a luthier. McPhee died in his 40s following a lung/heart transplant in 1997. The restaurant is named in his memory and honours not just his craft and creativity but also his entrepreneurial spark.

The other shining beacon for the women is their belief in the importance of family. Shanti says,

Heartwood will provide lots of artistic avenues. We’re building something for our families. I see this being here for our girls some day. And to show them that in your forties you can quit your jobs and do something totally crazy like open a restaurant.

The restaurant plans gelled very rapidly. They viewed the building on Hwy. 62 in Combermere last winter and, having talked about owning a restaurant for the past five years, the decision was quickly made. Family members have been involved throughout the process. Their support and encouragement along the way, along with friends coming to pitch in at on-site work bees, has made it all possible. While they initially hoped for a summer opening, the sisters are now pleased to work out any starting hiccups at a more relaxed pace this fall while awaiting their liquor licence. Once licensed, they expect Heartwood to become known as a great place for special celebrations and family gatherings.


From left: Becky McPhee, Blakeney Malo with baby Georgia, Shanti Nordholt-McPhee in the kitchen preparing for the Heartwood soft opening  Photo: Jackson Franchetto

Heartwood will initially be open for lunch and supper on weekdays, and for breakfast, lunch and supper on weekends. There will be lots of live music with Shanti’s musician husband, Schroeder Nordholt, on the piano frequently. Sundays will be a family day providing an old-style home-cooked dinner with a Fam-Jam at 2:00 p.m. where anyone can bring a banjo, ukulele or whatever they have to join a musical jam. The sisters have filled notebooks with ideas for paint and craft nights, food art, seasonal décor and much more. While they will be able to cook the whole menu, Becky and Shanti plan to handle front-of-house themselves. They currently have two part-time cooks and have developed relationships with Valley  farms to source as much as possible locally. So far, the likes of the Shulist Family Farm, Half Moon Farm, Seed and Stone Farmstead, and Two Trees Farm are on board with Heartwood.

Both women say,

It’s been an epic journey of faith, perseverance, optimism and love. We look forward to serving the community.



The official ribbon-cutting is from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on October 6, with dinner served 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Soft opening the previous weekend, details on Facebook.

Heartwood Restaurant is located at 39280 Combermere Road, Combermere, ON. Click HERE to visit the Heartwood Restaurant page on Facebook.    The Heartwood telephone number is 613-756-9169.


  1. Christopher de Vinck

    The de Vincks and Kauzmann’s have been coming to Combermere for over 60 years, and you both have captured something special and local and nearly holy and joyous in the foundation of why you opened your restaurant. Our families look forward to many joyous meals during the many summers to come. Best of luck and congratulations.

  2. Sandy Lynch

    Had dinner at Heartwood on Saturday. Excellent food, fun music, knew half the folks there. Strong sense of community! Whoops, mustn’t forget the really good art on the walls.

  3. Wilmer Matthews

    Congratulations to both of you ladies. It sounds like it’s going to be a great place to eat, socialize and just ‘hang-out’. Best wishes for a successful launch, and much success in the future.

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