A small restaurant situated at the bottom of Overwaitea hill has been serving Kimberley for 50 years.
What originally started as Chicken Delight back in 1968, has transformed many times into what Kimberley locals now know and love as Bear’s Eatery.
Bear’s is known for their pies, while Mary’s Kitchen served up perogies, and of course fried chicken was the famous dish from Chicken Delight.
Bear’s Eatery has been in the same location for eight years now, but this month, the building itself is celebrating 50 years of serving Kimberley in one way or another.
On November 6, 1968, Chicken Delight opened in the now Bear’s Eatery building, which was originally located across the street. Owners Frank Aikins and Chuck Kinrade opened the franchise among 500 other locations in Canada and 800 in the U.S. at the time. Things have changed a little since then.
On the menu was a deluxe chicken dinner for just $1.79, or a two piece Fish and Chip meal for only $0.69. Families could even get a free ‘brick’ of ice cream if they spent $3.00.
Mary Heinemann worked for Aikins and Kinrade as a manager of the restaurant.
An article written in the Bulletin in 1968 read, “Manager Mrs. Mary Heinemann, Mrs. Maida Botcher and Mr. Kinrade have all attended a special two-week training course in Vancouver. Also working behind the hatch is Alvie Heinemann. Part-time help consists of Barbara McLeod, Brenda Chisholm and Larry Shaw.”
After managing Chicken Delight for ten years, Heinemann took over ownership of the building in 1978 and opened Mary’s Kitchen.
Many years later, in Sept. of 2010, Barry “Bear” Pearce and Janet “JJ” Johanson bought the building. They closed the restaurant, completed extensive renovations, and five months later opened Bear’s Eatery.
“It’s pretty cool that this little old building has been an operational restaurant for 50 years,” Johanson said.
As some may have noticed, the iconic building is now up for sale. The husband and wife duo own and live in the apartment above the restaurant, and are hoping to move somewhere a little bigger, preferably Marysville. They also aspire to transition into a pie “factory”.
“Bear’s pies are the best,” said Johanson. “We’d love to open a pie factory that sells desert pies, meat pies, and maybe a few lunch items.”
Even if the building doesn’t sell, the duo may still change to a pie shop.
“We’ll see what happens, we have so many loyal customers that it might be hard to make that jump,” Johanson explained.
Another thing that Bear’s Eatery is known for is their extensive record collection. Johanson says they own over 3000 albums, many of which they display on their walls, rotating through genres and seasons.
“All of our albums on display right now are Canadian artists,” she said. “We change them all the time.”
Johanson even has a copy of an album from Kimberley Kinrade, son of previous restaurant owner Chuck Kinrade.
“We’ve been open for eight years and we love this restaurant,” said Johanson. “I have the absolute best customers.”