Humans of Campbell River: Seabreeze Take-out
Humans of Campbell River is a collaboration between Destination Campbell River and Bluetree Photography. Showcasing the stories of those who call our coastal community home. Each week we deep dive into a new story and the connections between people and place. This week we’re sharing the story of Seabreeze Take-out.
My name is Rachel Wiley I am lekwiltok from Campbell River and a member of the Wei Wai Kum First Nation. I was born and raised in Campbell River where I currently live with my husband and our two kids. I have lived here my whole life and feel deeply rooted in this community. I was born at CR general hospital, my kids were born there, so was my mom, and her mom, and her mom. It has always meant something to me raising my family and pursuing my dreams of owning and operating a restaurant within my traditional territories where my ancestors have walked before me.
I was 25 years old when we first began Seabreeze. My mom and I had spent years having conversations and dreaming of someday re-opening her old restaurant “Seabreeze Café”. With the help and support of my husband Gerry, our dreams became a reality in 2012. Our children were 2 & 4 at the time, and we joke looking back now how our daughter fit in the potato boxes when we first started. It wasn’t easy raising a young family and learning how to own and run a business for the first time. Learning to operate as a mother-daughter team has had its challenges full of ups and downs, laughter, and tears, but I wouldn’t change a thing and we couldn’t do it without each other. We would like to thank everyone who has helped us along the way and without the help of our amazing staff, the support of our customers, the community, our friends, and our family we wouldn’t be where we are today.
The “original” Seabreeze Café was established in 1994 by my mom Janice Roberts in Campbell River and operated until the early 2000s. She had worked cooking on fishing vessels for most of her career. In the early ’90s after the decline in the industry, she decided to complete the culinary training at NIC and pursue her dreams. With the help and support of her parents and husband, Seabreeze was born. She spent years creating and perfecting recipes with a homestyle cooking flair. She established a loyal clientele that have followed her to this day, specifically for her famous Caesar dressing. I was 8 years old when Seabreeze opened and have fond memories of going to work with my mom helping with prep, helping the waitresses, and endless chicken fingers. Memories that are now passed on to my children.
Janice’s heart and soul have been poured into the Seabreeze and without her, Seabreeze wouldn’t be what it is today. Our late Uncle Mark Henderson had designed the logo for my mom when she first opened. It was based on his print the “southeast wind” and the deep meaning, respect, and appreciation has been tattooed literally on our souls and bodies.
Today Seabreeze operates as a family-run business with a mother-daughter team running the day-to-day operations. My 76-year-old grandma still bakes homemade pies, and my kids help wherever needed. It’s safe to say Seabreeze is a four-generation operation.
Born to be…
I always enjoyed cooking. Growing up my mom and my grandma were amazing cooks and I wanted to be able to cook as good as them someday. As a kid, I would go to my grandma’s and learn to bake her recipes, especially her famous pies. She will tell you my career started as a toddler making mud pies for hours on end in her backyard. I come from a long line of cooks. My grandma Edith began her career as a cook learning from her mother. Her mother, my great grandmother, May Henderson had 18 children. She cooked and fed all those mouths along with many other friends and family members who frequented the Henderson home. I love hearing stories and memories my mom and gran share with me, like how often times dinner was whatever was in the bucket on the porch, or the dozens of loaves of bread my great granny would bake daily. In 2007 my great grandparents Sam & May Henderson were awarded a Campbell River Community spirit award for their contributions to the city. They would often barbeque salmon known as Tlubuk and make Bannock for the city on Canada Day and be seen with all the kids adorned in regalia for the floats in the 1950s.
My grandma Edith had her first job cooking at the original Beehive Café in 1960 working for Skip McDonald where she met my grandfather. She began working at Painters Lodge in the ’70s where she worked and cooked for many staff and guests including John Wayne. She then began working at Yuculta lodge where she worked for the remainder of her career until she retired. Through her career, she established a reputation as an exceptional chef/baker and employee that carried through to my mom when she applied for her first job at Dairy Queen. When my mom’s perspective employer Skip McDonald found out she was “Eddie’s” daughter she was told to not even bother filling out the application she already had the job.
I didn’t plan or intend to follow in my mom or grandma’s footsteps and become a cook professionally. After my mom sold the Seabreeze she spent the next years of her cooking career as a camp Cook working in various logging camps along the coast. Shortly after High school at the age of 18, I started my career bull cooking for my mom in logging camps. It didn’t take long before I was cooking on my own in the off shifts. I enjoyed the scenery and seeing the coast and quickly began to realize that I was doing something I was good at, enjoyed doing, and able to make a decent living at. My entrepreneurial spirit longed for starting my own business and that’s where the early days of dreaming and manifesting began.
I can truly say that I feel I was born to do what I am doing and feel blessed to be in a career so rooted in history and tradition.
This past year has been challenging for everyone. The restaurant industry had a roller coaster of a ride navigating the ever-changing tides of regulations. We are fortunate to already operate as a seasonal take-out business and were able to ride out the storm.
My mom and I cater in the off-season and lost an entire season due to covid. Without certainty for the future, we knew we had to make a push to get the most out of this Seabreeze season. With the financial support from Indigenous Tourism BC and Tourism BC, we expanded our offerings to include a new partially covered patio seating area. Without their contributions, we wouldn’t be able to begin this season excited, ready, and prepared for whatever the future may hold.
We look forward to opening our doors again this 2021 season and seeing all our customers new and old. We can’t thank you all enough for your support. Many of our customers have become like our family and we’ve enjoyed watching all of you grow supporting us and helping our business grow as well.
Gila’Kasla from all of us at Seabreeze