FALKLAND - Along the highway stretch from Kamloops to Vernon sits a small community called Falkland, home to the only pub between those two cities.
Nestled into the centre of the community, the Falkland Pub is hard to miss, and although there are two other restaurants in the small community, there’s something different about this establishment.
The pub has been just as it is, other than a few renovations, since Jeff and Julie Kirkham took ownership in 2004. But now that the couple is at retirement age, they’re preparing to sell their much-loved pub.
"It’s been here a long time and I think it’ll continue to be," Jeff says.
The Falkland Pub feels like home when you walk in and are greeted by the front of house staff and Jeff. The regulars are known by staff on a first-name basis and usually greeted by a question about how work is going or how the family is doing.
There are different sections inside the pub, all of which have a unique feel. The party room near the back is reminiscent of a living room with lounging couches in its own partially closed off corner, and the pool table section could almost be compared to a museum.
Hanging on the walls surrounding the billiards table are pictures of the pub in its many stages of existence. First, as a hotel, followed by the transition to a pub, and eventually a ‘biker bar’.
The pub has been through a lot, Jeff says, since he and Julie took it over after the previous owner had it foreclosed. When they first started out, a friend came to Jeff to suggest a way of bringing people in.
"One gentleman, Mike, said 'well it gets a little quieter in the winter what are you going to do?'" Jeff recalls. "I said well I don’t know, we’ll think of something... he says 'well why don’t you race belt sanders?' I said… what?"
That conversation started an unlikely series of belt sander races down a 40-foot-track in the middle of the pub. Jeff says hosting these unique races helped carry the pub through the slow points when they first took ownership.
"We got so good at it, that you would start modifying your belt sander and you wouldn’t believe what you could do," he says. "We would race down this 40-foot-track and the belt sander was 1.8 seconds."
But they may have gotten too good. One belt sander went so fast down the track that it broke the end and punched a hole through the wall, directly through a man in a mural.
There’s a framed photograph hanging above the hole which reads "Souped up belt sanders and a track to race, a straight line out from the fireplace. Something happened, a sander flew right off the track and straight into this here wall, which left a hole. No need to ask, 'cause now you know!"
Since then, Jeff says, the winters have gained a more casual approach of live entertainment and karaoke.
The woman sitting beside the man with the belt sander hole in the mural, Jeff says, was a regular at the pub for years. Her name was Ruthy, and after working her cleaning shift her favourite place to have a drink was at the pub back in the 1980s when it still thrived as a biker bar.
She was a member of the Falkland community for 50 years and also worked as a cleaner at the pub.
"She got to be very well known, even members of the biking community, they’d come in and see Ruthy and they’d sit down and have a beer with (her)," Jeff says. "When they’re paying their bill they’d say ‘put one on my tab for Ruthy’."
Jeff and Julie may have not been owners at the time, but they know nearly every story behind the pub. It’s become a kind of second home for them ever since they made Falkland their home years ago, but they had to go a distance to make their dream of owning a pub happen.
“We’ve always had fun on this side of the bar and we wanted to see what it was like on the other side, and that’s all it was,” Jeff says. “That’s what instigated us starting to look for a pub to own.”
The couple was living in Camrose, Alta. at the time and were visiting Julie’s family in the Shuswap when her sister mentioned a pub for sale in Falkland.
“We came and had a look and away we went,” Jeff says.
The Kirkhams have poured their blood, sweat, tears and love into the pub for a solid 13 years. But about one year ago they had to make the decision to begin winding down and relaxing, enjoying their home of Falkland.
"We’re not planning on leaving the community right away," Jeff says. "Maybe as we age we will, but we will still be living in the community and be down at the old pub."
It's been a long ride for Jeff and Julie, who made up half the staff of the pub when it first started, along with their daughter and her boyfriend. Julie worked in the kitchen and Jeff worked up front during the day. On the night shift, their daughter took the front and her boyfriend cooked.
Now that the pub has been on the market for about one year, Jeff and Julie are ready for a buyer at any point, they just hope the Falkland Pub will stay as it is.
"It’s time for new ownership, new blood, new ideas," he says. "I hope they wouldn’t build four-storey condos, not in Falkland. I’m sure that anyone who took it over would run it the same, I mean there’s always new ideas and new things you can incorporate. But generally, I don’t see why they’d want to change a lot."
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