Following demand from the public, the city and Papa G’s Cafe re-opened the concession in Riverside Park on Canada Day — selling out of hamburgers, a few kinds of ice cream and receiving countless words of encouragement for the last-minute decision.
“I think we must have had at least 400 people say, ‘Thank you for opening in the park. It’s just not the same without the concession,’” an exhausted Papa G’s owner Gerald Thiessen told KTW on Tuesday morning.
“It’s been part of Kamloops since people can remember. They grew up with the concession and their kids grew up with the concession. They couldn’t imagine not having it open in the park.”
The city had decided to shutter the longtime concession near the pier in Riverside Park this year, opting instead to encourage food truck business.
It noted consistency challenges in operating a daily concession, with wildfire smoke and weather related-issues posing problems.
The city is also looking to do some work in the park in the future, including bank stabilization, path upgrades and creation of a refrigerated ice rink for which the city is pursuing grant funding.
The city owns the concession building, but contracts out the space to a vendor. Thiessen, who also owns Papa G’s Cafe on Seymour Street, said he wanted to continue operating the concession after five years in that location, but the city had made the decision.
After the story ran in the June 26 edition of KTW, feedback was swift — with residents expressing their disappointment over the closure and calling for the concession to re-open this summer.
They phoned. They typed. And the city listened.
Thiessen said he received a call from city staff, asking if he still wanted to open the park concession this summer. He called his suppliers. They were in. He put out a call for employees on Facebook. Sixteen were hired.
The health inspector, business licence office and insurance company finished paperwork in time to serve ice cream on Canada Day.
“They all stepped up at the last minute to get everything done,” Thiessen said. “They all stepped up to the plate. It was a team effort.”
Thiessen said sales on Canada Day were “unbelievable” — the best in six years, he said, noting he has never before run out of food on Canada Day.
With 2.5 hours of sleep, he was back in the cafe first thing Tuesday morning.
“It was an amazing day,” he said. “The support we got yesterday [Canada Day] was unbelievable.”
Thiessen’s wife will operate the concession for the summer, with three or four of the employees hired for Canada Day to stay on.
Weather permitting, concession hours will be 10 a.m. to the end of Music in the Park, between 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., until September long weekend.
The deal is for one year. It remains unclear whether the concession will re-open next year.