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Iconic Vancouver Island pub turns 100 years old in 2024

Shady Rest remains a popular spot after a century on Qualicum waterfront

The Shady Rest in Qualicum Beach will mark its centennial this year, a remarkable achievement surrounded by interesting Parksville Qualicum Beach history.

The iconic waterfront pub is part of the legacy of the Kinkade family, who owned and operated it for 61 years, from 1924 until 1985, when it was purchased by Wayne Duncan.

“It’s 100 years of people’s stories,” said Tom Saunders, general manager of the Shady Rest for the last 14 years. “Life-changing things — anniversaries and meetups and birthdays, just kind of everything.”

Thomas Kinkade opened the Shady Rest on July 8, 1924 as a rest stop and inn, according to family history provided to the PQB News by Stewart Moore, who married Lois Patricia (Kinkade) Moore. The establishment was named for the large trees that grew nearby, which provided shade for trestle tables and benches built nearby.

Saunders says quite a few patrons have brought up the coming centennial to him lately.

“One of the things that I’ve heard over all these years is just the meeting place that it’s been,” he said. “Whether you’re coming from the south Island or the west coast or the north Island, it’s kind of like a good spot sort of in the middle for people to meet up.”

It’s tough to say exactly what made the Shady Rest successful enough to last for a century, but Saunders thinks location might have something to do with it.

“It’s such a primo spot on the ocean. It used to be right beside the highway — the main highway before there was an inland highway,” he said.

A road was built along the Qualicum Beach waterfront in 1895, hand-graded to a width of 12 feet, according to a speech Kinkade gave to a local Legion in 1946.

Since those days plenty of businesses have come and gone but the Shady Rest has endured as the oldest business still operating, according to the Qualicum Beach Museum and Brad Wylie’s book Qualicum Beach - A History of Vancouver Island’s Best Kept Secrets.

Lately Saunders has been hearing about memories customers have from over the decades.

“One gentleman told me recently that his dad was stationed in Comox during World War 2 and his mom has all these letters that he wrote to her, every day that keep mentioning, ‘can’t wait to meet you at the Shady Rest’,” Saunders said. “It was just, again, that place where he’d be able to get off the base and meet the mom.”

READ MORE: Parksville woman comes across treasure trove of war bride letters

Bruce Percevault has lots of fond memories of the Shady Rest, dating back to the 1960s.

“Twenty-one was the age back in those days,” he said. “And I was in there drinking at 19 or something and one night my parents came in and my mother started to say — and I said ‘don’t you say a word’.”

He will meet with 20 or so fellow graduates from the Qualicum Beach High School class of 1964 for an informal reunion this month.

A lot has changed in the last century. The Kinkade family moved from Northwest Bay to the mouth of Little Qualicum River way back in the 1880s. In order to vote, Kinkade’s father walked all the way to Wellington. Several years later a polling station was set up at the Parksville School House.

“Game was very plentiful such as geese, ducks, Brant, deer, bear, elk and plenty of wolves,” Kinkade wrote. “My father and Tranfield shot many wolves on their hunting trips. Quite a bit of activity commenced around what is today Qualicum Beach, in 1905 to 1914.”

In 1944 Kinkade retired and his son Gerald took over operation of the business with his wife Emily. The couple continued on until 1974 when due to ill health they asked their daughter Lois and her husband Stewart Moore to take over.

The family continued to operate the Shady Rest until 1985, when it was sold to Duncan.

“The Shady was quite a bit smaller then, I’ve renovated many times over the years,” Duncan said, and added at the time they had a big sendoff party for the Kinkade family. He anticipates a celebration this year as well to mark the centennial, although the date is to be determined.

“The restaurant was only about 24 seats when I bought it, it was a little truck stop,” he said.

Several renovations over the decades expanded the capacity to 100 seats in the bar and 125 in the restaurant, plus another 35 on the restaurant deck. The liquor store was added in 2004 — previously it was a residence of the former owners.

“If you look from the road, you’ll see the original Shady is right in the middle,” Duncan said.

There used to be cabins for rent, but they were converted into office space. At one time there was a manual gas pump out front as well, Duncan said.

The locations of the entrances and exits have also changed.

“In those days you had to have a ladies and escorts door,” Duncan said. “If you brought your wife in you had to go through that door. For whatever reason, because the bar was so small you sat in the same places anyways.”

Patrons don’t always believe the Shady is a century old until they go downstairs.

“We have an old stump down there that I think they just cut off and used as a footing so it wouldn’t slide into the ocean,” Duncan said. “Four-and-a-half-feet across. It’s a big stump and it still sits there to this day and it will never move, I guarantee you.”

The restaurant and pub remains a popular stop for locals and tourists and the Shady Rest’s story is far from over.

“It’s an amazing spot with amazing customers and amazing staff and hopefully we can get another 100 years,” said Saunders.

The Shady Rest has been for sale for approximately a year. It’s a challenging time for the service industry, due to inflation and the labour shortages, and Duncan said young people can’t afford go out as much they used to.

“We really thank the Town of Qualicum for the support over the years, without them 100 years wouldn’t have been possible,” he said.

Kevin Forsyth

About the Author: Kevin Forsyth

As a lifelong learner, I enjoy experiencing new cultures and traveled around the world before making Vancouver Island my home.
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