Skinner’s Celebrates 85 years!
According to legend (or at least stories my dad told me about his beloved Red Wings) even goaltender Terry Sawchuk, who grew up in East Kildonan, took shifts at Skinner’s while on his way to a Hall of Fame career.
“I don’t know about Terry Sawchuk, but Jimmy would bring back the third- and fourth-line guys to work at the restaurant, because they didn’t make the money they do today,” said current Skinner’s owner, Brent Thompson.
Thompson is planning Skinner’s 85th anniversary celebrations, June 20-22 at all three locations, including two in Lockport and another at The Forks Market. The events will include giveaways and a car show.
“We’re going to have some 1929 prices where you can buy a hotdog or ice cream and get another for 10 cents,” Thompson said.
The tradition started in 1929 when James Skinner, a Selkirk storekeeper, opened a stand on River Road. Located across from St. Andrews Lock and Dam, it’s billed as the oldest hotdog outlet in Canada.
“The main highway used to go by the River Road location,” Thompson said.
However, a multiple-fatal auto accident in the 1940s resulted in the highway being straightened out where Highway 44 is today, Thompson said. Skinner’s then added its second location on Highway 44 in 1945.
Both locations have a retro theme and vintage juke boxes. The River Road restaurant is decorated with vintage Red Wings and NHL photos, which were spared from a fire in 1974.
“There is a different clientele at each place,” Thompson said. “More of the older people go to the one at River Road. Up at the highway one we get more people heading off to the Whiteshell getting takeout.”
When James Skinner retired, his sons, Gordie, Morden (better known as Ducky) and Jimmy took over the business in the 1940s. It was around that time that Jimmy began duties with the Wings, which included chief scout, head coach and GM. He coached them to a Stanley Cup in 1955.
The Skinner family sold both restaurants in 1972 and Thompson’s family took over ownership in ’79. The Red Wing theme has been updated with a Helm jersey that was signed by Detroit’s 2007-08 Stanley Cup team, Thompson noted.
Skinner’s Wet ‘N Wild operated from 1984 to 2004, but still sits behind the Highway 44 location. Thompson’s father was part of a shareholder group who shut down the water slides after a couple of unseasonably cold summers. The property was purchased by a developer about seven years ago, Thompson said.
“Maybe some day houses will go back there, which is too bad because it was a good tourist attraction,” Thompson said. “Some days there would be 2,000 to 3,000 people out there, but with Manitoba summers it was a tough business to keep going.”
Thompson hopes the anniversary will bring back many long-time customers.
“There are seniors who’ll tell stories of how they met their spouses at the old dance hall on River Road,” he said. “Now it’s their kids who bring them back.”
BY DOUG LUNNEY