A restaurant with over a half-century of history in downtown Chilliwack is closing its doors this week.
After 54 years, Homer Restaurant at 46090 Yale Rd. is shutting down. Friday, June 10 is the last day.
Fotis Garoufalis, supervisor at the restaurant and nephew to owners Frank and Wanda Garoufalis, said the decision wasn’t an easy one, but “it was time.”
“They’re over their 80s and they can’t work anymore,” he said. “We had some key members, like kitchen staff who’d been here for over 30 years, and for the same reason they retired. One of the cooks was a Greek lady who did all the preparation of our Greek meals, and another guy from the kitchen, same thing. It was impossible to replace their cooking ability.
“We all kind of got tired, so it was time to let it go.”
COVID factored into it too. The pandemic knocked everyone for a loop the last two years, and the staff at Homer were no different. The restaurant stayed open for pickups and deliveries, but Fotis said that mentally, it was tough.
“With the regulations and the vaccine passports, that was the toughest because people I personally knew since I’ve been here ended up on the non-vaccinated side,” he said. “We had people calling in asking us about the passports, and when we told them we had to do that some people said things like ‘you suck’ or ‘you’ll never see us again.’
“That made it hard on all of us.”
The last two years aside, it’s been a long and fun ride for Fotis, and it’s going to be emotional saying goodbye to a place that’s been a second home to him for 33 years.
He said that up until two weeks ago it felt like business as usual.
“But now it feels weird,” he admitted. “I know people who used to come here when they were little babies with their parents, and now they‘ve been coming here as adults to say goodbye and tell me who they are. I know their families and all those families were like families to us. Over the last two weeks I realize how connected we were, without really knowing it.”
Fotis, 63, came to Homer in 1989.
He is planning to work all day the final day, maybe enjoying one last plate of calamari. Normally he’d drive home alone after a long shift. But in this case he’s asked his wife to be there. After closing the front door and turning the key for the last time, he said he doesn’t know how he’s going to feel.
“Lots of people, I might not ever see them again,” he said. “We have regulars every day that come here for lunch or dinner. We know their life stories and they know our life stories and it’s like family, and I spent more time with some of them than with my own family back home.
“So I’ve been thinking a lot about how the final day is going to feel, but it will definitely be emotional.”
Homer Restaurant first opened in 1968, and Fotis said it wouldn’t have lasted five-plus decades without amazing support from the community.
“We would like to thank all of our customers over the years, especially the last two years over COVID,” he said. “We’ve had some people calling every day and they’re almost crying asking us why. It’s sad, but it’s nice also to know that we’re going to be missed.”