Family tradition returns to Saanich neighbourhood
New bistro seen as a gathering spot for residents and college students
Darron Kloster, Times ColonistPublished: Saturday, August 21, 2010
A family with a long history in the city's hospitality industry is turning a tired corner store property along the busy Shelbourne corridor into a smart neighbourhood bistro.
Brothers Adam and Michael Helm along with partner Cole Byers have spent months gutting and remodelling the former Tan's Market on Shelbourne Street at McRae Aveune.
They plan to open McRae's -- serving West Coast pub-style fare with local beers and wines -- sometime in the next week.
From left, Cole Byers, Michael Helm and Adam Helm in front of McRae's, a soon-to-open bistro on Shelbourne Street.
"We get tons of people stopping by asking what we're doing, when we're going to open," said Adam Helm. "We think it's a great spot and something that's really needed here."
The partners say McRae's fills a void along one of the region's busiest thoroughfares, catering not only to the neighbourhoods between Hillside mall and Shelbourne Plaza, but to students at nearby Camosun College as well as the University of Victoria.
The Helm family are no strangers to the area -- or the industry. Their father, Lyndon Helm, built Maude Hunter's Pub further up Shelbourne and later Christie's Carriage House in the Jubilee neighbourhood, where both Adam and Michael cut their teeth in the business washing dishes. Their grandfather, Albert Eudoris Helm, was the founder of the enduring Helm's Inn at the gate to Beacon Hill Park.
All three businesses remain going concerns -- some would say institutions, although the family has divested its interests. Lyndon also founded Saanich Rentals, carving off some of the property to build Maude Hunter's in 1982.
The Helms were also raised just up the street on the slope of Mount Tolmie, where the family has lived for 39 years.
"I am very proud of what the boys are doing," said Lyndon. "This is their project, their idea and I think it's a good one. They worked their up at Christie's, went and did their own things for a while and have come back full circle to do what they really know and love."
The move to food and beverage was a natural shift for the brothers. Adam, 32, and Michael, 27, had operated a u-brew business on Interurban, taking Brew Works out of receivership in 2007 and turning a profit within a few months. They sold it recently to qualify for a food primary liquor licence at McRae's, which is expected to be approved in the coming days.
They've had their eye on the property for years, and grabbed the lease when a plant nursery and cafe ended a brief stint at the site late last year.
Byers, a towering former professional hockey player and friend of the Helms, joined them as a partner after surveying the site.
"I came over here one night about midnight and just walked around and thought 'this is perfect,'" said Byers, 27, a Nipawin, Sask., native who played with the Notre Dame Hounds and Mooose Jaw Warriors before embarking on a six-year pro career -- mostly in Europe. He retired after a season with the Victoria Salmon Kings and is the cousin of long-time Boston Bruins tough guy Lyndon Byers and has a younger brother, Dane, in the New York Rangers organization.