It’s nearly 3 p.m. closing time at Jimmy’s Place at the Cariboo Centre mall.
The classic diner in the aging shopping centre at Unit G - 435 North Rd., Coquitlam, has just a few minutes on the clock, but, customers continue to order hamburgers, sandwiches and soup.
In one leatherette booth, a group of workers is chatting over their meal while in another a lone diner finishes his food.
For owner James Shin, the customers come first; he’s busy behind the counter cooking up a storm, assisted by his wife Su Kim and long-time employee Michelle Cho.
The typical customer will order classic breakfast, lunch or brunch items like bacon and eggs, pancakes, beef dip, omelettes, burgers, fries and BLTs from the chalkboard menu.
You sit yourself down after ordering and the food is brought to you.
You can also help yourself to ice-cold water with lemon slices at the restaurant, which is open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day except Sunday.
Diner opened in 1980s
Dating back to the early 1980s, the eatery is a place where everyone knows your name — making it one of the rare classic diners in the city.
“I like the customers here. Some of them I see every day. We know what they want to eat. They don’t have to say anything,” said Shin.
Some even offered to give him money to keep the place going during the pandemic.
But it might surprise some to know that Jimmy’s Place is still open despite the mall phasing out, with many of the businesses shuttered.
“I get calls about whether we’re still in business,” said Shin.
However, Shin told the Tri-City News he no plans to close down — even as many windows in the mall are blocked out with paper, including the place next door.
The closure of the Independent Grocer in 2021 was a blow, admits Shin, and the RBC, a fixture at Cariboo Centre since the 1950s, is relocating across the street to the City of Lougheed at the end of July.
“We haven’t heard anything [about future development],” said Shin.
The Tri-City News reached out to property management company, Choice Properties, but has yet to hear back.
But according to the City of Coquitlam there have been a few inquiries, but no applications.
The property is designated as Transit Village Commercial and is zoned C2 for its current use, but could be zoned C-7 for a high-density, mixed-use development.
“We’ve had a few enquiries from the property owner over the last few years as they explore their options for the future of the Cariboo Shopping Centre, but no formal applications,” confirmed Coquitlam’s director of development services Andrew Merrill.
That’s good news for Shin, who said he’s looked around for other places but everything is so expensive.
No plans to move
For now, he’s happy to keep serving up customers the classic diner fare.
Originally from Korea, Shin immigrated first to the U.S. then Canada to be an airplane mechanic.
He studied at BCIT but after a few years on the job, and a layoff, started working at Jimmy’s and took over the business 12 years ago.
While it was never something he trained for, he quickly learned the ropes from the previous owner as well as Cho, who has been at the restaurant longer than he has and is like a mom to him.
Jimmy’s Place is named for the original Jimmy who opened the restaurant in 1982 while Shin is the fourth owner and the third Korean to run the place.
For now, he has no plans to make a change.
“It’s hard to survive. I was thinking I’m pretty lucky.”