For the 86-year-old widow of Albert Bert Srigley, the closure of the popular Main Street diner Berts after 63 years is the end of an era.
Berts, located at 2904 Main St., will serve its last orders of pancakes and eggs, liver and onions, and Reuben sandwiches Jan. 7.
Agnes Srigley wont visit the diner Saturday, when longtime customers and restaurant staff will join Berts current owner Gerry De Kova for a final goodbye.
It will be too emotional. I spent so many years there, I dont want to make a fool of myself, said Srigley, whose husband died in 2003. Its very sad, but I understand why he needs to close. Everything is so expensive these days.
Srigley, who lives in Richmond, said the family will be represented by her son who will visit Berts Saturday to pay his respects. Since word of the restaurants impending closure spread, former employees have contacted her.
Its amazing, Ive heard from a lot of the girls who used to work for us, Srigley said.
The Srigleys opened Berts in 1948 as a 24-hour coffee shop catering to shift workers from the streetcar barn that once sat across the road where the IGA is located today. For the next 63 years, Berts fed blue-collar workers and families even as the Main Street neighbourhood surrounding it changed and grew along with the rest of the cityand the streetcar went the way of the dodo. The Srigleys sold the diner to the Kletas family in 1968, who kept the name Berts. Five years ago when the restaurant went on the market, longtime customer De Kova took the plunge and bought it.
The popular diner survived many hardships in the more than six decades its been serving inexpensive, homestyle meals, but in the end it was brought down by a number of economic challenges, including the addition of parking meters to Main Street.
The parking meter added another dollar to [customers] meals, which is really another hidden tax, said De Kova. Were being nickel-and-dimed and our customers dont have the money to spend.
De Kova also blamed rising property taxes, increased food costs, the recession, the rise in minimum wage and the introduction of the HST for his financial woes. He added one of the draws of Berts has been the ability to offer home-cooked meals, such as spaghetti, at low prices. When it became obvious he could no longer do that, De Kova decided to sell.
The Courier visited Berts in 2008 when the diner celebrated its 60th anniversary and on hand that day was Berts 80-year-old cousin Rachelle Davidson who had flown in from Victoria. Agnes was also at Berts for the 60th anniversary celebration. No one knows me as Agnes, she said at the time. They all call me Mrs. Bert.