Kelekis Restaurant closes down after 81 years

An iconic Winnipeg eatery opened its doors for the last time Wednesday.

City of Winnipeg names section of street after popular eatery

Kelekis Restaurant closed for good on Jan. 30. The Winnipeg institution saw a portion of Main Street renamed in its honour. 1:53

An iconic Winnipeg eatery opened its doors for the last time Wednesday.

Kelekis Restaurant saw hundreds of people turn out to have one last meal before it closed its doors forever.

At lunch time, the City of Winnipeg paid tribute to the business by naming a portion of Main Street after it.

Mayor Sam Katz and several city councillors attended the ceremony, which saw the block of Main between Redwood and Aberdeen avenues become Kelekis Way.

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The restaurant has been running in Winnipeg for more than 80 years and has become a fixture on Main.

Chris Kelekis 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 restaurant moved to the well-known Main location in 1946.

On its last day it attracted visitors from all over the city and some from neighbouring towns.

Joan Cudmore drove in from Gimli for the last day. She said she first came to Kelekis when she was five years old and hasn’t stopped coming since.

"When I was pregnant with my first son, we lived on Henderson Highway, and my cravings were Kelekis fries," said Cudmore.

"Every evening we’d walk across the Redwood Bridge for Kelekis fries."

The establishment is famous for its shoe-string fries and hotdogs.

Its owner, Mary Kelekis, is retiring at age 88. Kelekis and her sisters took over the restaurant from their father, after joining the business in the 1930s.

After 70 years of service, she said it was time for a break. She made the announcement in November, saying there was no one to take over after her retirement.

On Wednesday, she stopped for pictures and accepted hugs and thank-yous from patrons.

"The customers that come in here all the time – you get to know them. That’s what’s nice about the counter," said Kelekis.

Even though the restaurant is closing, she plans to stay nearby.

"I’m not the type to get up and fly away to warm places. I’m quite happy to stay put," said Kelekis.

She said she hopes a good buyer will take over the location.