For Sale: 1 historic building
The Deluxe

Today I’m going to give you a little history lesson about the town I grew up in.

It’s a typical small town with typical small town stories and the historic buildings that often go with them.

There was the mansion on Victoria Street that sat vacant for decades, every kid in the town telling stories about how it was haunted.  (turns out it wasn’t haunted so much as neglected by the owners who inherited it) The house was sold and fixed up recently.

There were the cactus greenhouses.  Our town was at one point, the Cactus Capital of the world.  A bit of an anomaly, what with it being in Southern Ontario, Canada and all.  The greenhouses shut down some years ago, the glass bulidings falling victim to kids with rocks and falling tree branches.

And there was The Deluxe.

The Deluxe restaurant was opened by the Wongs in the 1940’s as a diner.  It was a successful little place until the untimely demise of Mr. Wong in the 1970’s.  In the days after Mr. Wong died, his wife walked down from the apartment she shared with her husband above the diner,  crossed the linoleum floor, and locked the front door of The Deluxe forever.  She never opened it again.

The doors to The Deluxe remained locked for  the next 40 years.  A time capsule.  A shrine to her late husband.  Everything stayed exactly as it was the day it was installed in the 1940’s.  The soda fountain, the long wooden candy bar and the booths with their newfangled juke boxes hanging from the walls in each booth.  Even the cigarettes and candy in the glass cases sat untouched for the next 4 decades.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many residents of the town, myself included, never knew the restaurant as anything other than something to look at.  We’d peer into the front windows whenever we walked by and wonder if it’d ever be opened again.  We’d shield our eyes from the glare of the sun and press our faces to the glass, taking in a scene you’d normally only see in movies.  Occasionally you’d see Mrs. Wong, down from her apartment, watering some plants inside the restaurant’s front windows.

And then one day a picture show came to town.  They were looking for a place to shoot a movie and old Mrs. Wong gave them permission to shoot in The Deluxe.  Then came another, and another.  Over time The West Wing, Haven, Cabin Fever, and Man of the Year were shot in the restaurant because it was a 100% authentic 1940’s diner.  There was nothing like it anywhere else.  It was a perfectly preserved piece of history.

And then in 2003, at the age of 104,  … Mrs. Wong died.

Now what?  What was going to happen to this landmark?  Half the town was hoping it would be reopened exactly as it was, and the other half was hoping it would be torn down and updated.  I was in the former group.  I wanted The Deluxe to be reopened as the diner it had been 40 years ago.

And then it sat.  Nobody wanted to lease it, nobody wanted to run it and nobody (Mrs. Wong’s sons) wanted to sell it.  So there it sat again.   For years.

Then in the summer of 2009, an article appeared in the local paper announcing a decision had been  made regarding the town’s most famous and beloved landmark.  The entire contents of The Deluxe were to be sold at auction so it could be transformed into a Thai restaurant.

Oh. My. God.

I went to the auction even thought I didn’t want to.  I didn’t buy anything.  I went to say good-bye to the things I never even got a chance to know.  To the things I saw through the window.  I went to say good bye to a piece of history that would never and could never be replaced.

I hear the new Thai restaurant “The Bankok Deluxe” is good.  I wouldn’t know.  I haven’t been.  I can’t bring myself to go.  I’m still angry about the loss of something so rare.  I’m sure one day I’ll relent, but it’s been open for close to 2 years now and I haven’t stepped foot over it’s threshold.  I have nothing against the restaurant itself or the owners.  In fact they’ve done a beautiful job with the place.  They’ve installed elegant modern windows in the front that open up to let the breeze through in the summer.  I hear the food is delicious and it must be because it’s packed every night.

I’m just not ready  yet.  I’m a bit of a curmudgeon that way.

And I’m not the only one who loved The Deluxe.  The whole town has a special place in it’s heart for the diner and the history behind it.

My sister even painted a picture to commemorate the old gal.  All those folk art lessons in the 80’s seem to have paid off.

She’s had 100 prints made up which she’s selling for $95.

If you want to buy one … lemme know.  I have an “in”.

“The Deluxe” as painted by my sister.

 

(here it is in perspective)

 

 

The more I hear about the new restaurant, the closer I get to going to it. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one in town boycotting it for historical reasons. I’m also pretty sure I’m not quite ready to go there yet.

Hell. I’m still upset that house isn’t really haunted.

To contact me about a print email me at karen@theartofdoingstuff.com


32 Comments

  1. Bill Grigg says:

    Karen,

    If you use Google Maps and street view to search out the location, the images are from before the change over. In Google land, the Deluxe remains a time capsule!

  2. Amy from Utah says:

    You have such an elegant way of captivating your reader with your exceptional ability to tell a story.

    Really.

    I love this post. As I read through it, I unexpectedly found myself so sad to learn that a restaurant I didn’t know existed 2 minutes earlier, had been changed into something so common.

    It’s tragic in my opinion.

    But great, great post.

  3. Thanks for sharing this story. Its hard to make way for change, I support your boycott, but when you are ready I bet they have amazing Thai iced tea and fresh spring rolls! The history is still alive in that building, it will be there forever, even with a facelift. That’s the great thing about old buildings.

    Oh and I bet that old house is haunted.

  4. Mary says:

    We had our own “deluxe”, only it was the “Cosy”, complete with Mr.& Mrs. Hum and all the Hum-lets. It closed when the Mister died, and stayed closed the same way. They sell drapes there now; I’ve never been in and prolly never will. Now, for the burning question. On the menu, under Sundaes,is the David Harum. What the heck was a David Harum? Enquiring minds want to know.

  5. Susan says:

    I never knew the Deluxe other than a dusty, puzzling window and it’s nice to know the back story, but please don’t tell me there’s no more cactus festival?
    The restaurant I have fond memories of is the Majestic, on York, I think, in Hamilton. Going to my first job and meeting a friend there for coffee in the morning, and having a big FRIED Danish. You can do that sort of thing until a certain age. But even forty years later, just like Pavlov’s dog, if I drive down York, I start to salivate getting close to James.

  6. maggie says:

    How large is the print Karen? Wayne and I were part of that era. Some of our friends worked there and Wayne was kicked out of the establishment once or twice by Mr Wong or “Chopper” as they called him. Lots of memories.

  7. Cheryl says:

    I empathize with you 100% on this.

  8. liz a. says:

    what do you suppose it means if i cry while reading this? obviously, i would feel just like you, i couldn’t go in the new place either! shoot, i miss the little woolworth’s we had here in town; at least they turned it into a little museum filled with all kinds of old farming stuff from our town, whew! but we have a whole two block of those old-timey buildings and fun store fronts, makes the heart feel good! thank you for the great story!

  9. Jeanne says:

    I know exactly how you feel. I grew up in the 40- 50’s and my first job was at “The Sweet Shoppe”, now in famous CA Wine Country. It was the hang out for the high school crowd, complete with the black and white tile floor, red cushioned seats, booths, Formica Aluminum tables and a soda fountain. I would eat grilled pickle slices all day long. Some of the kids graduated and went off to Korea that I thought were heart throbs, and some did not come back. In the 60’s Burt Reynolds came to town and made a movie there, long after I had left. Today the shop is a very expensive loungerie boutique. In fact, all the shops are now boutiques and the butcher shop, grocery store, bakery, fish market are only memories of the past.
    Thanks for jogging my memory of those friends of our family, now long gone.

  10. Lin N says:

    As long as the Deluxe is in your heart and memory it’s never gone. Your sister has done a beautiful painting of capturing the nostalgia of the place. Yes it’s sad and spoke of a special time and awakens memories of so many other small town establishments with wonderful stories. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Anj says:

    Back in 79 I worked at Fanny’s Jeans in Dundas. I think I worked just to buy Jeans. I had a lot of skinny leg, lay down on the bed to do them up Jeans. My favourite, which cost 4 paychecks were my Sassoon Jeans with the yellow piping down the leg. I also worked so I could get off the farm and go out for lunch every work day at the diner.
    So there is my question, What was the name of the diner that was about a block above the 4 corners on the left side. They had fantastic milk shakes and burgers. The windows jutted out on either side of a recessed door and they had a counter down one side.
    Also another question from the Deluxe Menu – What is a Johnson Sandwich? What is a Jelly Omelette and What is a Chop Suey Sundae?

  12. Ana says:

    Karen, if you’re interested in reviews, here’s the Yelp page for the Bangkok Spoon Deluxe (3 stars out of five so far): http://www.yelp.ca/biz/bangkok-spoon-deluxe-hamilton

    Ugh, just saw a picture of the new storefront. The old sign was so much better.

  13. Jenn says:

    Ah, so sad. I, too, would have opted for the historical renovation.

  14. Chris says:

    I totally understand your feelings.

    Re: the David Harum, here are instructions on how to make one (via Google Books):
    David Harum Made in an 8 ounce bell glass First place a layer strawberries in the bottom of the glass over this a large disher of strawberry ice cream and then a layer extra fine fruit and on top of this another layer of cream Top with cherries and whipped cream

  15. Kim Norgate says:

    Karen, you are not the only one who has boycotted the new place, I too have refused to cross it’s threshold. I was actually lucky enough to meet Sue and have my picture taken in The Deluxe with her the year before she died, it was Aug 2003 during Cactus Fest. I miss walking down King Street and peering into the window, catching a glimpse of what once was.

  16. Pauline Clark says:

    That’s such a great story and I can relate to it in so many ways. First, as a fellow writer, excellent tale! Second, as a blog follower of yours, way to keep me captive. Third, as a resident of a small Ontario town (Thessalon in the north), I can so relate as we had a chinese restaurant that sounded so similar and we have the haunted house too–though it’s not empty. Such a wonderful, emotional, sad but true story. Thanks for sharing!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Pauline! I hate that I only have time to do a first pass on my writing. I’d love to have the luxury of actually thinking about the words and maybe even rewriting them! However … I do not. 🙂 ~ karen

  17. Pam'a says:

    Wouldn’t you think that, at some point, humanity would figure out that newer is almost always NOT better?

    I largely avoid my entire hometown for reasons very similar to your thoughts here. Well said.

  18. Amy says:

    I hate that they didn’t restore The Deluxe. The Colorado town I grew up in has never invested in the old historic part of town. The powers that be seem to prefer the new and as a result the old part of town is falling apart. It’s really sad.

    As a side note, the picture of your home town looks just like the quaint southern town that I now call home.

  19. This makes me so sad. I love historic buildings and businesses. We had a soda fountain/pharmacy in my hometown that stayed the same for years and years, but it has recently been updated. Or in my opinion, ruined. I’m with you on the boycott. There could have been so many uses for the old place just as it was. I couldn’t sit in there without trying to imagine what might have been.

  20. maggie says:

    karen, my sister maggie, whose computer i am using would like a print and so would i and we would like one for our brother so that would be three all together, could you let lisa know and i will contact her when i get home from florida? thanks so much marilyn xo

  21. Luke Hoy says:

    People never really know what they have until its gone! This seems to happen everywhere, “oh, just an old building…”

    🙁

  22. Laura says:

    I too used to peer into the Deluxe Restaurant windows. I LOVED the vintage look of the place. It was truly unique and I had hoped they would continue using it as a location for tv and movies. Alas that was not to be.
    I’m not even from Dundas (my partner is) and I mourn its loss. 🙁

  23. Jesica says:

    I grew up in Dundas as well.I lived above the deluxe in 1998- 2001. Mrs. Wong was still going strong. She would make her rounds monthly to collect the rent and would carefully write out a receipt. I have many fond memories of her and I am quite sure she would not approve. Sadly our Dundas is disappearing quickly 🙁

  24. Hey there! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering if you knew
    where I could find a captcha plugin for my comment form?
    I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having problems finding one?
    Thanks a lot!

    Feel free to surf to my homepage … Spire Blu Ecig Reviews

  25. gina says:

    how can I purchase a print before Christmas can you please let me know

  26. Richard Birney-Smith says:

    Thank you for this. Rosie took me to lunch for my birthday but did not know the history. Thank you for recording it. – rbs

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Optionally add an image (JPEG only)

  • About Karen

  • About Karen

  • My Latest Videos

Pin1
Share
Email
The Art of Doing Stuff