Another beloved Okotoks restaurant has announced it'll be closing its doors.
On Jan. 19, via the Facebook page, Bistro 1882 announced they would be closing shop at the end of February 2023.
The restaurant sits on the west end of North Railway Street across from the art gallery and occupies the historical old town post office and has been operating as a restaurant for around 40 years.
In their Facebook post, owners Ed and Marcella Povhe thanked their beloved customers, spoke of new adventures ahead, and encouraged anyone with questions to phone Ed rather than email, because "Ed hates email."
Those brave enough to call Ed will soon find out that there is no one factor to point to as the reason for their decision to close.
The Povhes acquired the building and the business along with it 12 years ago, and at first, the former owner/resident chef (who literally resided in the building) stayed on to run the kitchen.
Neither of them had much knowledge of fine dining, but Marcella was quick to catch onto how the kitchen worked.
"With this kind of food, it was hard getting people, so he stayed for three years, and she was always the fill-in. When the kids were in school, she'd come and do all the prep. She made the crab dip, the bruschetta, the jus, she knew how to do everything. Then when Nicholas finally left, she said 'I'm gonna give this a try.' We did a big renovation upstairs so we could make the upstairs our own and fit all five of us up there, and that's how she fell into it," says Ed.
From then on, Marcella called the shots in the kitchen, and meanwhile, a local waitress of 30 years, Jill Jenkins, was making a waiter of Ed.
That's how they've been operating until now, and it's allowed them to do things on their own terms.
"We live in our hours. We only open Tuesday to Saturday, we were closed between lunch and supper, since COVID, we only open for lunch and supper if we've got at least one reservation. At supper I cut it off at 4 o'clock, for lunch I cut it off at nine in the morning. If somebody called at 9:10 and wanted a lunch reservation, I'd say 'no, you gotta call earlier, we're closed today.'"
"I always said 'we know what we do, we know what we can't do, and we don't try to do what we can't do."
With that being their credo, they've been running the restaurant on their own terms, and now they're closing it on their own terms.
It's allowed them to open when they like, to take time off when they like, and to always know exactly what's going on in their restaurant.
That's not to say they were free of stress, though.
Ed feels everyone should work at a restaurant at some point in their lives, and anyone who has will know the kind of strain that running a kitchen can put on someone.
For Marcella, life as a chef was never in the cards, even though she excelled at it.
"We make all the food; we know what's in all the food. That's hard to do, it's a big job. She's been doing it all, and she never came from this either... She's so good at it but doesn't necessarily love it. You can't force that."
While they could just bring in new staff, sit back, and let others run the show, that's just not what they want to do.
"That's always the thing, right? 'Well, just get bigger.' Well, what if I don't want to be? Really? I have to be bigger? Going from not having employees to having employees, that's like another whole business. Now you're running two businesses instead of just one."
Ed also takes issue with the prospect of juggling inflation and rising prices with paying his staff a living wage.
"There was a time when the rents were low, property values were low, you could buy easier, the insurance, food costs... It is unreal what we were paying for food three or four years ago compared to what we're paying now. And you can't pass on the costs to the consumer. I know that's the reality of any economic system, costs go up, you raise your prices, labour costs go up, so you raise your prices so you can afford to pay more. I know that causes inflation, but that has to be in a manageable way."
"When I see what house prices are, what gas prices are, what vehicle prices are. I always go back to when I worked in this little local restaurant in Saskatoon when I was a kid. Everyone in that place made money, they made good money, they were able to buy a house, to buy a car. Now that's not the case... To be able to pay a chef what I feel he's worth, that's much higher than what the market pays chefs now, which I think is criminal. For what I deem as commensurate for what they do, what their responsibilities are, and what I need."
For Ed and Marcella, the list of reasons behind the decision to close is long. Much longer than he could fit in a Facebook post.
It's going to be a bittersweet goodbye for many locals, but for the Povhes, they know it's the right thing for them because they decided together.
"I've known my wife since she was 13 and I was 14. Working with your husband or wife every day in this kind of high-pressure service, it's not all roses and sunshine. But we have a history, we still love each other, that's the biggest thing. Neither one of us would ever let this come in the way of our relationship," says Ed.
As for their future, for the moment they're just zeroing in on closing up shop. After an unsuccessful attempt to sell the building last year, they're now looking at holding onto it for a while longer and maybe renting it out.
Their post was met with a flood of support, well wishes, and fond memories from the community.
"Congratulations on running one of the best restaurants that ever existed. Thanks for the great food and experiences. Best of luck in the future," reads one comment. "My husband and I have come here so many times to celebrate love and accomplishments and every single time has been spectacular," says another.
It's something the Povhe's have taken notice of, and their customers' overall love of the restaurant is something hasn't gone amiss these 12 years.
"We've had great customers that have been coming to that building for 40 years. I know so much about the first owners just through customers. I knew very little of the history of the building and found out way more from customers about the building, about Okotoks, about this area, about Macleod Trail. That's the original Macleod Trail the building is on. That's been a gift. "
"I love what I do. I was never a waiter before and I think, by far, it's been my favourite job, and I've had more jobs than many people get in one lifetime."
The restaurant will be open until the end of February and they're still taking reservations, though they ask that you book over the phone (Ed hates email.)