Community

Spirit of Helen kept alive by new owners in Qualicum Bay

Ryan Kim is the new owner of the Sandbar Café in Qualicum Bay, which had been run by Helen Hallett until her death last November. Kim, right, was hand picked for the position by Ken Kirkby of the Nile Creek Enhancement Society, left, to ensure her community spirit continues at the eatery, according to Kirkby. - BRENDA GOUGH PHOTO
Ryan Kim is the new owner of the Sandbar Café in Qualicum Bay, which had been run by Helen Hallett until her death last November. Kim, right, was hand picked for the position by Ken Kirkby of the Nile Creek Enhancement Society, left, to ensure her community spirit continues at the eatery, according to Kirkby.
— image credit: BRENDA GOUGH PHOTO

In the spirit of the late Helen Hallett, the Sandbar Café in Qualicum Bay has re-opened with the same hospitality that made it the hub of lighthouse country.

When the owner of the Sandbar café lost her battle to cancer in November 2013, not only did the disease take Hallett away, it left a giant void in the community.

The café was considered the epicentre of the community where neighbours gathered and tourists were warmly welcomed.

After providing some of the best hospitality in the community for more than five years, the doors of the Sandbar closed and it was feared the heart and soul of the nieghbourhood would also be lost.

Local musicians hung out at the eatery and presented live entertainment in the evenings.

It was also a gallery where artists could display their work and sell a few pieces.  The walls and shelves in the cafe were adorned with creations by some of the community's many talented artisans.

On March 1, the music and art work returned along with the hospitality and it appears the legacy of Hallett's community spirit will live on now that Ryan Kim is the new owner.

Many people had expressed an interest in re-opening the café, but it was Kim who was chosen.

Because Hallett was a great supporter of the Nile Creek Enhancement Society and a dear friend of Ken Kirkby, the driving force behind the environmental stewardship of NCES, whoever took over the Sandbar had some big fishing waders to fill.

The landlord of the property, Robert Saunders, had asked Kirkby for input on how Hallett had achieved such a jewel in the community and if it would be possible to for it to continue.

"He wanted to know how Helen made it all happen.  I told him the whole story and he asked if I would be willing to help get it going again," explained Kirkby.

Kirkby said a number of candidates expressed interest in taking over the restaurant but it had to be the right person.

"We looked through the list of people and said nah ... then Ryan came along.  He is from one of the most difficult countries in the world. If you can survive South Korea you can survive anything.  That personality will overcome any negative and that is vital to me."

"We came up with a simpler version of it and this café became the centre of this community again," said Kirkby.

Between Nile Creek and the Sandbar, Kirkby said they have created a community with a certain heartbeat to it and it has attracted willing souls, including Kim.

Leaving the rat race of Vancouver behind, Kim said he is fortunate to take over the Sandbar and so far he has been warmly welcomed into the community.

"I was amazed at the number of people who came out for the grand re-opening. I have met a lot of people and they are all so nice. I will try to do the same as Helen did and I am happy to support the community as she did," said Kim.

One look at the menu and you will see Kim's desire to embrace the entire community.

Each hamburger is named after some of the local landmarks such as the Nile Creek burger, the Horne Lake burger and the Lighthouse burger, to name a few.

Kim said a couple of his servers came up with idea and he loved it.

Musician Peter Mason, who has a large following in Lighthouse Country, was also invited back to continue the kitchen music parties that made the Sandbar the place to be Friday nights.

Mason and his talented friends will be providing entertainment on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the landmark eatery perched on beautiful Qualicum Bay.

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