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A Port Moody 'hidden gem' is closing for good

A beloved Port Moody burger joint with a spectacular waterfront location is closing for good on Sunday. But it's not because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Barry Wilson and his daughter, Tammy, take in the waterfront atmosphere at their Port Moody diner, Willy's Galley. They're closing the little burger joint for good on Sunday.

A beloved Port Moody diner is serving its last burger.

Willy’s Galley, at Reed Point Marina, closes Sunday. Tammy Wilson, who runs the diner with her father, Barry, made the announcement on social media Wednesday.

It was immediately greeted with an outpouring of support.

“So sad to hear this news,” said one commenter.

“Eating at your place always felt like going to a friend’s house where the food was always good,” wrote another.

Tammy Wilson said the positive messages have been heartwarming, but rising food costs for ingredients like the canola oil they use in the kitchen and ongoing staffing challenges for their seasonal venture meant it was time to move on. Surprisingly, she couldn’t lay the blame on the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Restaurants Canada, about 10,000 restaurants across Canada closed between the start of the public health crisis in March, 2020, and last December. A survey by Statistics Canada found nearly 60% of the restaurants still operating expected a continuing decline in their profits through the first part of this year.

Wilson said the diner’s expansive, dog-friendly outdoor patio and its marina location with spectacular views of the Burrard Inlet and surrounding mountains and forests made it a bit of a destination for patrons seeking a safe break from cooking at home.

And, added Barry, once people discovered their little burger joint, everyone liked to think of it as their own “hidden gem.”

The Wilson’s created the diner five-and-a-half years ago when they took over the lease from an Italian restaurant, Casa Fabesso, that formerly occupied the space. It wasn’t their first crack at serving food to hungry boaters and visitors to Reed Point; they ran a concession out of a trailer from 1993 to ’96.

Tammy Wilson, a former bus driver, said the restaurant’s location on the water and down a steep embankment from the busy Barnet Highway was a balm, a daily escape.

“When I crossed those railroad tracks, I just felt calm,” she said.

Barry Wilson, 77, said he fell in love with the location’s solitude and scenic splendour.

“It’s quiet, and when the sun is setting, I have a hard time going home.”

From there, the pair worked to serve up a welcoming, family atmosphere along with their breakfast specials and afternoon burgers and fries. Barry, whose outsized ability to wink is the inspiration for the jovial skull-and-crossbones scallywag on the restaurant’s sign, doled out special pirate coins to visiting kids and Tammy ensured artwork created as they awaited their food adorned the walls.

Much of the diner’s 12 staff work part time, or they’re students earning a little extra money to pay their school expenses.

Barry Wilson said he’s ready to hang up his apron for good and take it easy. Tammy said she’s still not sure what’s next. Both are proud of what they’ve achieved though, and touched by customers who’ve stopped by to say goodbye.

“It’s nice to see we’ve had an impact on people.”