OK Café kitchen upgrade funding approved

Heritage BC grants honour diverse history, culture

Vanderhoof OK Café on Museum site

The District of Vanderhoof and the Nechako Valley Historical Society have been successful in their application for funding for their OK Café kitchen upgrade project.

The total project cost is $53,000. Secured funds include the $23,000 contribution from Heritage BC grant plus $30,000 through the Community Halls and Recreation Facilities grant from the Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT).

The OK Café upgrade met the eligibility of the Heritage BC funding criteria as it is Vanderhoof’s oldest functioning restaurant and one of the community’s earliest buildings.

The OK Café is a binding agent for our community and a draw to the Vanderhoof Community Museum, which houses historical information and provides education on Indigenous and Settler history of the Vanderhoof and surrounding area.

In repairing the Café to full functionality, the Café will be able to continue its legacy of preservation and togetherness, in addition to providing local business and increased tourism for the community.

OK Café background

The OK Café is one of Vanderhoof’s original Settler buildings, and has served as a community hallmark since its construction in 1920.

For the majority of that time, the Café has functioned primarily as a restaurant and, in the past forty years, a draw to the Vanderhoof Community Museum—one of the primary sources for information and education on Vanderhoof’s history, including the Indigenous history of Saik’uz First Nation, on whose traditional land the museum and Vanderhoof itself stands.

The intent is to broaden the historical value for locals and tourists by actively developing the Dakelh’ history at the museum site—including within the Café, which, at different points in time, disallowed or segregated Indigenous patrons.

Originally built and operated as a restaurant and hotel by Tim Chow and George Chuey, the OK Café displays an often unknown multicultural aspect of Vanderhoof. The intention of the project is to update the deteriorating kitchen to meet modern health regulations in order to preserve the Café as a community asset and continue its original intended and historical use.

The Café was nonoperational the last two summers, and there was a noticeable cloud of disappointment over the community whenever the museum was mentioned. The Café opened nearly 100 years ago, and we want to bring it back into its historical use as a community hub. Outsiders look for unique experiences when moving to a new town; the Café is an experience unique to Vanderhoof.

 

Project way forward

Maintaining important historical aspects of a community is critical to sustaining population and bringing new people into the community. Conservation efforts at the OK Café will proceed with no alterations to the building façade nor street-side appearances, and will preserve as much of the original building as possible. Many years ago, a kitchen upgrade was completed in the Café, but now these improvements are dated and unsafe.

Since a kitchen upgrade has been done in the past, the impact of a modern upgrade one may assume will be minimal, however, the upgrade is incredibly important for the continued functioning of the structure in its original capacity. The kitchen currently does not meet modern health regulations, and therefore the Café will be unable to open and operate this season without this update.

The selected contractor will work together with the District and the Nechako Valley Historical Society to maintain all historical aspects of the building.

Currently food service at the arena concession is contracted to a local company, the Nightingale Coffee Company. With the Café kitchen upgrade, their contract will be extended to run food services in the Café as well. They are excited to share their home-roasted coffee, homemade bread/pies/baked goods, and 1900’s era doughnut recipe with residents and tourists. With a modern kitchen and historical storefront, they look forward to serving the community and help bring the Café back to its original glory.

The project will be completed by May 1st, 2017 as the Museum will open then for public use.

– files from Hilary Irvine, District of Vanderhoof