Famous Winnipeg restaurant Kelekis is closing

Kelekis Restaurant, the iconic family-run restaurant in Winnipeg's North End, says it will close its doors for good on Jan. 30, 2013.
Kelekis, an iconic family-run restaurant in Winnipeg, says it will close for good on Jan. 30, 2013. 1:54

Kelekis Restaurant is calling it quits.

The iconic family-run restaurant on Main Street near Redwood Avenue, will close on Jan. 30, 2013.

The announcement was made on the website for the restaurant, which has been in its current location for 81 years and has a wall of photographs featuring famous customers.

The wall of fame features signed photos from people like Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Nia Vardalos, and Randy Bachman. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)

There is also a mural along one wall that depicts the history of the family and its business.

"So many friendships have been forged with customers that this is a very hard thing to contemplate. We will miss all the contacts and the conversations with all of you," states the announcement on the website.

"But times have changed and Mary will soon be celebrating her 88th birthday and she finally deserves a break from the daily routine."

Mary Kelekis and her sisters took over the restaurant's operation from their dad, who started his business from a pushcart prior to the 1920s.

In the 1930s, the sisters began working alongside their dad in a remade Model T Ford from which they sold food at outdoor events and fairs in the city.

Mary Kelekis said they had a difficult staff meeting Thursday night.

"The tears and everything else, because some of them have been with us for many years. Some have been with us for about 30 years, 20 years, 25 years, you know?" she said, choking up with emotion.

"I've seen one girl from high school become one of the best servers I have.

"But it's come to one thing — I turn 88 next month, December. And I think it's just time, and there's no one to follow through."

A Brief history of the Kelekis family

The Kelekis Family has a long tradition in the city of Winnipeg. Chris and Magdalene Kelekis emigrated to Canada in 1913 and subsequently settled in Winnipeg in 1918 after living in Montreal and briefly in Edmonton. Chris and Magdalene's family was very important to them and their children were integral to their success in business.

Chryse, Fotina, Sophie, Evelyn, Isabel, Mary, Leo and Becky represented their dreams in this new world. Chris began his business in the food industry with a pushcart from which he sold popcorn and peanuts. In the 1920s he owned and operated various fruit and confectionery stores in the city's West End.

In the 1930s he redeveloped a Model T Ford into a wagon and with his daughters' help, they covered many outdoor events in Winnipeg such as sporting events and fairs. From this wagon, he developed others and "Kelekis Chips" were a fixture in the city wherever there was activity.

The 1940s brought the opening of his two restaurants — the first at Main and Selkirk and then the present location at Main and Redwood. Chris was one of the first restaurant people to feature "take out" food in Winnipeg and it was an instant success.

In 1955, he saw the realization of his long time dream to expand the Main and Redwood location where his proud traditions of quality, value and service have been upheld by his family.

Kelekis's remains one of those rare unique experiences one can only have in Winnipeg. People still return to have that hot dog, hamburger, or "chips" they dream about in far away locations.

SOURCE: Kelekis Restaurant