Special to the
Castlegar News, submitted by Johnny Mah
Forty years of running a business is a long time, especially a small business in the city of Castlegar.
On May 1, owners and operators of Hi-Lite Restaurant Ltd. Jim and Amy Mah will be celebrating 40 years.
Many patrons who have been in this town may have known and heard of the Hi-Lite, but many may not know the restaurant has been in the city longer than 40 years and the building itself may be even longer and a historic buildling.
Built in the 1950’s by Cecil Watson, the building was housed as Castlegar’s original Greyhound bus depot. Years later, it was bought by Rigby’s and he converted to ‘Rigby’s Confectionary’ which also served as a local drugstore and café.
It wasn’t until the 1965 that York Mah (or commonly known to patrons as Yorkie and no relation to our Mah family) bought the building and property and turned the confectionary into a Chinese Western styled café and renamed it “Hi-Lite Café.” York was the original owner of the Marlane Grill.
But, why would York named the café “Hi-Lite?” Well, that is an answer I don’t know for sure, but I do recall that in the 1950’s/60’s when café/diners were opening up that most Chinese Western style cafes in Canada did not have any Chinese influences in the name and everything should be “superior” and “elegant” to the common name and so “Hi-Lite” was probably chosen. However, I do know that when my parents took over the business, they decided to continue to use that name.
During this time in the late 1960’s, my parents came to Canada and my father was working at my uncle’s restaurant in Cache Creek, B.C. It wasn’t until 1971 that my parents moved to Trail to work at my aunt’s restaurant.
It may have been faith that led my parents here. At first they thought of moving to Grand Forks to own a Chinese restaurant there, but snow prevented them from driving on Highway 3 and instead of heading 100 kilometres west they went 30 kilometres north.
On May 1, 1973, my parents signed over the business lease and it was three years later that we had full ownership of the restaurant, building and property assets.
When you come and dine in the restaurant, you will have a lot of nostalgia. The green walls, the orange swirl chairs at the counter; the booths and our infamous jukeboxes.
Not a lot has changed over the years in terms of the menu selection. You can still get Western style food on one side of the menu, while from the other you can have Chinese cuisine. But what are the most popular dishes that many patrons like to order? Well, it all depends on your taste. Whether you want to sit in and put a quarter in the jukebox and listen to Old Time Rock and Roll by Bob Seger and enjoy Chips and Gravy or Chicken Chow Mein or egg rolls. But, of all the dishes on the menu, our popular is our “No. 7” combination dish.
My parents have seen a lot of patrons who they’ve come to know well over 40 years.
Much time has gone by but they continue to prepare a well-cooked Chinese dish.
Hours of operation:
Tuesday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to Midnight.
Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 a.m.
Saturday, 12:30 a.m. to 3 a.m.
Sunday, 12:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.