A Beautiful Room

There was a time when my time was mine; my schedule depended on whims and interests with no hard-and-fast obligations. I gardened in the summer, crafted in the winter, kept my house clean and my husband fed, and generally enjoyed life on my own terms.

Those were the days.

In 2006, a down-and-out restaurant came up for sale in Maple Creek. Housed in a run-down stone building of uncertain pedigree, The Star Café had nothing going for it. Pebble-dash stucco outside, 1970s wallboard and a cheap dropped ceiling inside, grease everywhere – these were the features of what some would consider a tear-down.

 Maybe I had too much time on my hands, or maybe I am just a dreamer (my husband will attest to that), but I wanted to make this poor building sing — give it new life as a beautiful restaurant with wonderful food and friendly, attentive service.

I have always wanted a restaurant and nine years later, my husband and I still own and operate the Star Café & Grill.

Period  lights came from Rejuvenation Hardware in Portland Oregon.

Period  lights came from Rejuvenation Hardware in Portland Oregon.

The building has an interesting pedigree. Built in 1898, it started its life as two stores, with doors on the 45° openings, and a central front staircase to living quarters above. We know one store was Hewitt’s Drugs, but have not found out yet what the other store was.

In the 1920s, the stairs were moved, the dividing wall taken out, and a basement was dug for Beasley’s Groceria, which after WWII became Beasley’s Dual-Service Groceria because the owner served in both wars.

When we purchased the building, the restaurant was lined in 1970s wallboard, with a dropped ceiling, florescent lighting, indoor/outdoor carpet and a dated counter. The front windows were aluminum, and smaller than the originals; the front was covered with pebble-dash. The kitchen was outdated and dirty and the bathrooms were unusable.

The floor is a recycled airplane hangar from Fort McLeod.

The floor is a recycled airplane hangar from Fort McLeod.

As we stripped the front room, we found original tongue and groove paneling, and the original transom windows, which had only three coloured lights broken. Co-owner and designer Barry Weiss paid a great deal of attention to period detail when designing the room, and we built a replica of the Maple Leaf Hotel’s long bar to enhance the period interior. We installed a new roof, and windows, built new period-style bathrooms and a new kitchen. We took great care in details like doors, and hid the services behind blind cupboard doors for a seamless look. All interior finishing work, upholstery and furniture was done by local craftspeople. We also revealed the original stone wall in the dining room and the men’s bathroom.

We chose to keep the name of the original restaurant as an opportunity to recognize the history The Star Café has in the community. We simply updated it.

Behind the period restoration was a great deal of structural work, with engineered footings and supports in the basement, and engineered beams in the restaurant ceiling. This work saved the building from foundering in the flood of 2010.

Installing the repaired transom windows.

Installing the repaired transom windows.