Hay River's Back Eddy restaurant to change hands
“People come in and say, 'Oh my god, it’s like walking into the 80s!'”
Linda Duford is talking about The Back Eddy restaurant – birthplace of the famous Back Eddy's spice – that she and her sister, Nanette, have just sold.
“Our menu and our furniture hasn’t changed in 40 years, so it’s comforting for people. We hope the new owners don’t totally change that so the retro feeling is gone," she told Cabin Radio.
Since making the announcement, the Dufords have been flooded with dozens of messages from people wishing them well and reminiscing about the past.
“We’ve always been steady here but last week was really busy,” she said.
The takeover date was originally planned for October 1, but has since been pushed back.
Duford said their last official day will be October 27, and the new owners – who haven't publicly announced anything yet – will likely reopen on November 1, after the Dufords have had a few days to “clean up and clear out.”
Duford said customers have been “genuinely upset," adding: “We’ve had lots of people coming in with tears."
'Staff are like family'
The Back Eddy was opened in 1974 by chef Bill Laws, who developed the Back Eddy's spice. While Laws now lives in British Columbia, he still makes his special seasoning salt and sells it all over the world.
Laws sold the restaurant in 1987 and, when it came up for sale again in 2000, it was purchased by the Duford sisters' parents. After their parents passed away, they decided it was time to put the restaurant up for sale for a third time.
“It was really bittersweet and a hard decision to make because all of our staff are like family,” said Duford, who says – with the exception of one waitress – all of the Back Eddy staff have been with the restaurant for at least 12 years.
Duford said the new owners are hoping the staff will stay on, so they will only need to fill the kitchen and front manager roles the sisters hold.
She said the new owners have assured her they will keep the restaurant as similar as they can. The name won’t be changing, although it's time for some things – like the bathrooms – to be updated.
“We would have loved to have stayed on because it’s fun, but it’s a lot of work anytime you own your own business," said Duford.
“It gets to be a time where you want to step back a little.”
Duford has been very involved with the Kole Crook Fiddle Association and would like to continue that, as well as open a music studio where she can offer students private lessons. Nanette, she said, likes to travel.
Reflecting on the community's response to the sale, she concluded: “It’s a pleasant thing to know that people have appreciated you and will miss you.”