Angie Thibeault said she couldn’t help the tears that streamed down her face as flames engulfed the restaurant she once referred to as “her baby.”
Around 4 a.m. on April 17, Clancys’, a well-known Lac la Hache diner, fell to the mercy of a fire, leaving behind charred rubble and broken hearts.
“I’m absolutely devastated,” said Thibeault, who has worked at Clancys’ since 1988 through three different owners and countless experiences now apart of the past.
“I actually started waitressing in that building in 1967. Back then, it was called Kokanee Lodge, in the seventies it was Cariboo Place and finally, in 1984 Glen and Norma Clancy took it over and opened Clancys’.”
Thibeault saw Clancys’ through thick and thin.
“I was there when business was at its peak in 1988 and I was there when we considered closing its doors. I’ve seen it all-and now it’s all gone.”
On Aug. 1, 1984, Glen and Norma Clancy opened a restaurant that would change the little community of Lac la Hache forever.
The couple added a full service gas lot and convenience store before knocking down a few walls upstairs and moving in.
Glen, a pastry chef and dessert connoisseur, took charge of the kitchen, designing a menu that stood as long as the building itself.
“We were known for our baking, especially our homemade bread pudding and black forest cake.
Everything was made from scratch (including homemade bread) with the highest quality of care. Clancys’ served classic feel-good dishes, such as pork chops, veal cutlets, roast beef and schnitzel.
“We were the busiest place from Alaska to California.”
Clancys’ was a regular stop for truck drivers across British Columbia, a local hub for Lac la Hache residents and a quaint get-away for celebrities passing through the Cariboo who wanted to avoid the attention of a bigger City.
“My favourite part of having the restaurant was meeting people. I met so many personalities in that time.”
From neighbourhood friends to famous artists, such as Tammy Wynette and high profile bands like Trooper and Alabama, Clancys’ saw its share of diversity walk through the door for a fresh cup of coffee.
In the peak of its success, Clancys’ had 30 staff onboard making it the highest employing business in Lac la Hache. And if you had the opportunity to work there, you should count your lucky stars.
Glen and Norma treated their staff like family. They had an in-ground pool and hot tub in the back of the restaurant that they opened to staff and some of their favourite truckers.
“We had a lot of fun together,” said Norma. “People used to bring their kids to the swimming pool. The staff would use the hot tub to relax; it was great.”
And the one day a year that Clancys’ was closed was the day Glen and Norma would open their hearts more than ever.
Said Glen: “Christmas Day was the only day we closed and I so looked forward to that day. We would invite over anyone who didn’t have a family to spend Christmas with.
“We’d cook a great big meal, Santa would come, and we had a gift exchange. It was great. And that was how we spent our one day off.”
After 15 years of living at work and working at home, Glen and Norma retired from the business they built from scratch.
In 1996, the Clancys sold their restaurant to Aggie and Felix Cho, a Korean-speaking family from the Lower Mainland who kept the name and style of the diner as best they could.
Thibeault, who worked with them, said learning to adapt and overcome the language barrier was a hurdle the staff and management had to make to find common ground.
While she admits the restaurant “lost momentum” the decade after Glen and Norma sold it, she maintains Felix and Aggie were great people. They also moved in upstairs.
Many changes were made though. For instance, Aggie decided to fill in the backyard swimming pool with the intention of planting a garden. Thibeault recalls it growing into nothing but a field of weeds.
In 2008, the Korean couple put Clancys’ up for sale.
Across the province, Ian Kim’s real estate agent advised him to invest in the business. With that, Kim, who was in Fort St. John at the time, bought the business not knowing the gas lot included an 80 seat restaurant.
Upon arrival he was surprised and completely overwhelmed at the business deal he swung. Kim moved into the top suite to run the gas bar.
He asked who on staff was the most experienced in the restaurant and Thibeault stepped up. Since 2009, she has been leasing the space off Kim and running Clancys’ on her own discretion.