Updated: Apr 26
Following on BC’s recent and successful 2021 Heritage Week with its theme of “Where do YOU find heritage?”, it would be timely to profile one particular and fond aspect of Chilliwack’s heritage, that being the community’s oldest existing eatery – Homer Restaurant. [Note: the restaurant in question is often referred to as “Homer’s Restaurant”, in the possessive (a convention sometimes employed in this article), but in fact it is actually “Homer Restaurant”, as reflected by its signage and advertising.
Located just 80 metres from Five Corners, Homer’s was established in the early 1960s, but not at its current location. In 1962, Bill Gemelas and Peter Lagios acquired the Brite Spot Café at 42 Yale Road East (today known as 46152 Yale Road). After extensive renovations, they reopened the premises in 1964 as Homer Restaurant, with a seating capacity of 90.
Meanwhile, 150 metres to the southwest, a longtime staple of downtown Chilliwack (and the future home of Homer’s) was in transition. The Peaks Restaurant, situated at the northeast corner of Yale Road and Princess Avenue, had been a Chilliwack landmark since the 1930s due to its location, appearance, service, and menu offerings.
However, as the 1960s unfolded, the venerable Peaks was struggling. In addition to the growing trend of drive-in restaurants taking away much of its younger patrons, the new Highway 1 that opened in 1960 bypassed the Trans-Canada Highway that had run by The Peaks’ front door for decades, thus taking away much of its drive-by business.
The Peaks closed in the mid-1960s and by 1966 the Chilliwack icon was unoccupied and up for sale. The owners of Homer Restaurant soon seized the opportunity to move their operation into one of Chilliwack’s older and more visible structures – the old Peaks Restaurant building.
On February 15, 1968, Homer Restaurant officially opened in the previous home of The Peaks. When it commenced business at its new location, the now 120-seat eatery became the only 24-hour restaurant in Chilliwack.
Homer’s subsequently made a number of changes to the exterior and interior of the old Peaks premises, including incorporating a Greek theme in 1975, in keeping with the Homer name. Over the years, in addition to serving thousands of tasty meals, Homer’s has also accommodated monthly service club meetings, receptions, weddings, engagements, birthday parties, office parties, luncheons, banquets, and singles club meetings.
Today, at 85 years of age, the triangular-shaped Homer’s building, at 46090 Yale Road, continues to be a vital aspect of downtown Chilliwack. Homer Restaurant itself is now in its 53rd year of serving Chilliwackians from the old Peaks building at the corner of Princess Avenue and Yale Road.
Many special and lasting memories have emanated from Homer’s over the years. If heritage can be defined as “our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations”, so certainly should Homer Restaurant be valued as a heritage business that continues to operate in a heritage structure in Chilliwack.