The cause of a fire that tore through and completely destroyed a beloved historic building in Alexis Creek on Good Friday, April 19 is considered suspicious.
“We’re following up on some leads,” Alexis Creek RCMP Sgt. Trevor Romanchych said Tuesday, noting the cause of the blaze is actively under investigation.
“With this being the landmark building that it was, I hope it upset enough people that someone will talk.”
Romanchych said he received the call that the Happy Eater Restaurant was on fire just after 2 a.m., with the fire quickly compromising nearby communications infrastructure and cutting off phone and Internet to Alexis Creek and communities west of it at about the same time. For Romanchych, who heads up the rural detachment, his phone went dead in the middle of his call out, prompting others to knock on his door for help.
When he arrived on scene, which was only a few doors down from the detachment, Romanchyck said residents were doing what they could with water hoses to save the building, which was once the community’s general store.
“Residents did what they could but once a fire gets into an old wooden building like that it’s hard to stop it.”
Residents on scene then turned their attention to saving the old Chilcotin Hotel, also a local landmark, next door and to stop the fire from spreading through the community.
“It was a blessing it was raining that night,” Romanchych added.
The building that housed the Happy Eater Restaurant was one of the oldest buildings in Alexis Creek and served as the general store for many years. Dozens of people took to social media Friday to say how much the building meant to them.
“[I] went to movies and dances upstairs as well as worked in the [general] store in my teens, many memories because I lived across the street,” said Janet MacKay, in response to the Tribune’s story on Facebook.
Elaine Butler also shared memories of the store.
“I danced, shopped, watched the Saturday night picture shows and hung out on the front steps and was looking forward to seeing Anja in her restaurant next time I went out to Alexis Creek,” Butler wrote.
Others said they have many fond memories of visiting the Pigeon family, who owned the store at one time.
According to Veera Bonner’s book Chilcotin: Preserving Pioneer Memories, German-born Gus Jackel built the Chilcotin Hotel in 1937 and then the general store, with a “dance hall and theatre upstairs and ran the post office for a time.”
The building was not insured at the time of the fire, and was owned by Anja Mohr who ran the popular restaurant.
The restaurant wasn’t opened in recent years, however, Mohr was planning to open it for the upcoming summer season.
It was a popular, family-style restaurant in the small community.
A GoFundMe account ‘Make Alexis Creek great again’ has been set up to raise funds to help the owners rebuild the restaurant.