First of two parts
One of Nelson’s oldest eateries will soon be no more.
After more than 35 years in business, King’s Family Restaurant is expected to close in mid-April following the sale of its Baker Street building.
“People are going to miss us, but there’s nothing we can do,” said co-owner Anne Kwan, who has worked there since 2001, and whose husband Terry has been there since the start in 1978. She said they don’t intend to move to a new location and will instead retire, something they had already been considering.
King’s, previously known as Bossy’s Place and the Purple Lantern, has scarcely changed since the 1960s. Its booths, lunch counter, and wood-panelled walls are throwbacks to the days when Nelson was a blue collar town full of sawmill and railway workers. The menu of Chinese and western fare hasn’t changed much either.
King’s wears its anachronisms proudly. “We liked the way it was,” Kwan said. “Old-fashioned. No other restaurant had the same kind of booths.”
Between lunch orders this week, server Janet Young recalled that when she started at King’s 28½ years ago, it looked pretty much the same. “Maybe it had linoleum. Now it has carpet. When Terry bought his partner out, they changed the arborite on the tables from brown to green, but not much else. We are really low-tech. We still put our bills on clothespins and call our orders.” (A moment later she exclaimed: “Hamburger steak with ranch dressing, gravy on the fries!”)
Young said King’s clientele includes “a lot of Shambhala types in the summer. We get tourists. But the majority are regulars. Half the time we don’t know people’s names, but know what they eat.”
In fact, she said when regulars don’t come in for a while, they start to worry and ask around about them. Conversely, when Young was off for two months last fall, she received many phone calls from customers concerned about her.
And when well-loved regular John Finlayson died a couple of years ago, he didn’t have any family nearby, so King’s held a memorial service for him.
“I don’t know many restaurants that would do that,” Young said.
She admits, however, that business is not what it used to be. The second-floor Sunset Room doesn’t get much use anymore and there are fewer staff — three servers, plus the Kwans and their sons, who help in the kitchen.
Still, word that King’s is closing surprised regulars, including Andy, who didn’t want his last name used. He’s been eating there a few times a week for years and remembers the Purple Lantern days. What kept him coming back?
“The price is right, food is good, and staff is friendly,” he said. “We’re like a family.”
Andy said he doesn’t know where he will go instead.
The building is expected to be redeveloped this spring as a retail space.
Next: A history of the King’s building