Kelekis Restaurant to close its doors after 81 years
Winnipeg Free Press – ONLINE EDITION
By: Bill Redekop
“First the Wagon Wheel closed. Now Kelekis Restaurant.
Those are large grills and deep fryers to fill. The Kelekis family has announced it is closing its family restaurant as of Jan. 30, 2013.
“I’m 88 next month and it’s time. That’s the way it goes,” said Mary Kelekis, who still runs the restaurant and was there as usual this morning.
“It’s a place that many of us grew up in,” said Winnipeg Free Press restaurant reviewer, Marion Warhaft. The closing “takes the colour out of the North End. Nothing can take its place,” she said.
The C. Kelekis Restaurant was started in 1931 as a chip wagon by Chris Kelekis, at 1100 Main Street just off Redwood Avenue. His daughters later took over the restaurant.
The Kelekis family issued a statement: “So many friendships have been forged with customers that this is a very hard thing to contemplate. We will miss all the contacts and conversations with all of you.”
Warhaft said certain places like Kelekis Restaurant “are beyond normal reviewing. It’s iconic. It’s just part of the city’s history.”
Warhaft said she had her first “skinny fries with vinegar” at Kelekis. “I grew up on their hotdogs. Most people went with their hamburgers. It’s the sad passing of restaurants like Kelekis, Alicia’s, and Wagon Wheel. We all have sentimental attachment to them that was founded on their good food.”
The story of the Kelekis landmark on Main Street actually date almost a century. In 1913, Chris Kelekis left a Greek community in Turkey to follow Magdalene, the love of his life, to Canada. They married and had eight children, son Leo, and seven daughters: Chryse, Fotina, Sophie, Evelyn, Mary and Becky. The daughters all worked in the restaurant and son, Leo, who became a lawyer, took care of legal matters.
Mary Kelekis has received many accolades over the years including the Order of Manitoba and the Press Club’s President Award. She is a founding member of Folklorama, which debuted in 1970, serving as coordinator of the Greek Pavilion.
Many celebrities have dined at the eatery over the years and their photos adorn the walls. The wall of photographs includes prime ministers Chretien and Trudeau, all local premiers since Sterling Lyon, performers like Monty Hall, Len Cariou and Al Waxman, and hockey players from Bobby Hull to son Brett, with Anders Hedberg and Billy Mosienko in between.
Most recently, a scene from the hockey movie, Goon, was shot at Kelekis. In the scene, the young hockey goon played by Seann William Scott is talking to his parents (his dad is played by Eugene Levy) about his hockey career.”
from the Winnipeg Free Press website
Famous Winnipeg restaurant Kelekis is closing
CBC online news
“Kelekis Restaurant is calling it quits.
The iconic family-run restaurant on Main Street near Redwood Avenue, will close on Jan. 30, 2013.
The announcement was made on the website for the restaurant, which has been in its current location for 81 years and has a wall of photographs featuring famous customers.
The wall of fame features signed photos from people like Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Nia Vardalos, and Randy Bachman.(Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)
There is also a mural along one wall that depicts the history of the family and its business.
“So many friendships have been forged with customers that this is a very hard thing to contemplate. We will miss all the contacts and the conversations with all of you,” states the announcement on the website.
“But times have changed and Mary will soon be celebrating her 88th birthday and she finally deserves a break from the daily routine.”
Mary Kelekis and her sisters took over the restaurant’s operation from their dad, who started his business from a pushcart prior to the 1920s.
In the 1930s, the sisters began working alongside their dad in a remade Model T Ford from which they sold food at outdoor events and fairs in the city.
Mary Kelekis said they had a difficult staff meeting Thursday night.
“The tears and everything else, because some of them have been with us for many years. Some have been with us for about 30 years, 20 years, 25 years, you know?” she said, choking up with emotion.
“I’ve seen one girl from high school become one of the best servers I have.
“But it’s come to one thing — I turn 88 next month, December. And I think it’s just time, and there’s no one to follow through.”
A Brief history of the Kelekis family
The Kelekis Family has a long tradition in the city of Winnipeg. Chris and Magdalene Kelekis emigrated to Canada in 1913 and subsequently settled in Winnipeg in 1918 after living in Montreal and briefly in Edmonton.
Chris and Magdalene’s family was very important to them and their children were integral to their success in business.
Chryse, Fotina, Sophie, Evelyn, Isabel, Mary, Leo and Becky represented their dreams in this new world. Chris began his business in the food industry with a pushcart from which he sold popcorn and peanuts. In the 1920s he owned and operated various fruit and confectionery stores in the city’s West End.
In the 1930s he redeveloped a Model T Ford into a wagon and with his daughters’ help, they covered many outdoor events in Winnipeg such as sporting events and fairs. From this wagon, he developed others and “Kelekis Chips” were a fixture in the city wherever there was activity.
The 1940s brought the opening of his two restaurants — the first at Main and Selkirk and then the present location at Main and Redwood. Chris was one of the first restaurant people to feature “take out” food in Winnipeg and it was an instant success.
In 1955, he saw the realization of his long time dream to expand the Main and Redwood location where his proud traditions of quality, value and service have been upheld by his family.
Kelekis’s remains one of those rare unique experiences one can only have in Winnipeg. People still return to have that hot dog, hamburger, or “chips” they dream about in far away locations.
SOURCE: Kelekis Restaurant
BY JOYANNE PURSAGA ,WINNIPEG SUN
“After 81 years serving up its famous hot dogs and fries, Winnipeg’s iconic Kelekis Restaurant will close its doors for good in January.
“It’s been a long time, I turn double-eight this month. It’s time for retirement,” said owner Mary Kelekis.
Kelekis said she’s looking forward to retirement but the decision is bittersweet, since she’ll have to leave so many beloved customers behind.
“Mostly, I’m going to miss the people. We have just fantastic customers who’ve just walked in and they’re a wonderful bunch of people,” she said. “I’m going to miss them more than anything else.”
Kelekis, who has served everyone from former prime minister Jean Chretien to hockey star Bobby Hull, said many of her Winnipeg guests feel like friends and family, after visiting the restaurant for decades.
But Kelekis said younger family members took on career paths outside of the restaurant and weren’t available to take over as she retires.
Mary’s father Chris Kelekis first opened the restaurant as a chip wagon at 1100 Main St. back in 1931. His seven daughters later took over the business.
Since then, generations of Winnipeggers have made the restaurant a family tradition.
“I was just an infant when my dad brought me here and we’ve been here ever since,” said Karen Keppler, a customer of 55 years.
Keppler said the closure of the restaurant will be a great loss for the community.
“It’s very sad for us that lived in the North End for a long time, loved to come here. We’re losing an icon in the community for sure. This is the North End,” said Keppler.
Damon Johnston, who said the eatery’s tasty fries have kept him coming back for 29 years, agreed. Johnston said Mary was also a key attraction, acting like “everybody’s mother.”
“You’re losing, I think, something very valuable, something unique,” said Johnston.
Kelekis will serve up its last order of fries on Jan. 30.”
THOSE WERE THE DAYS
Notable Winnipeg restaurants that have closed in recent years:
- Papa George’s
- Wagon Wheel
- Restaurant Dubrovonik
- Royal Crown Revolving Restaurant