As Parksville’s Chuffin Cafe hits its 27th anniversary — “120 in Chuffin years” the owner jokes — they are as busy as ever.
“We’ve survived everything, nothing could stop us now,” said Gayna Thompson who started the restaurant with her parents Rhoda and George Thompson in 1987.
She admits to ups and downs over the years, but the family operation has adapted and survived.
The biggest shift came in 1994 with a complete re-design and the addition of their famous nostalgia theme, complete with hundreds of photos of the biggest film and music stars of the last 100 years, focused on the mid-century.
She said it’s surprising how often someone comes in with a story about an encounter, or working with one of the featured stars, like one guy who took John Wayne on a chauffeured camping trip.
“Music wise my first love is the Beatles,” Gayna said of her favourite posters.
She is also fond of Mae West and WC Fields, the restaurant’s mascots.
Gayna has always been involved in music and they used to have regular live shows, but today she organizes events away from the restaurant, including the tribute festival at the Parksville Community Centre May 23-25 with the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Roy Orbison, Garth Brooks, The Judds, Everly Brothers, selveral Elvi and others. Visit www.islandtributefestival.com for more.
The Chuffin opened as a typical 1980s diner with all the stylings of the era, including, “oh god all that burnt orange, it was kid proof, my father loved that burnt orange,” said Gayna.
George is no longer around, but Rhoda is still busy in the family biz, and her granddaughter Alycia — who literally grew up in the restaurant — is now the main server.
Gayna said she is trying to ease up on her workload these days but isn’t doing a good job of that.
She said she still loves meeting so many different people and hearing all the nice stories.
The Chuffin Cafe is open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday on Craig Street, behind the Royal Bank.