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Surrey’s Round Up Cafe is set to close forever, after 60 years of feeding community

The pandemic is ‘100 per cent the reason it’s closing,’ co-owner Dennis Springenatic says
Dennis Springenatic’s family has owned and operated the Round Up Cafe in Whalley for more than 60 years. “The pandemic is destroying a lot of people, especially smaller businesses like this,” he says. A fence now surrounds the front of the diner to keep people from gathering under the awning when the restaurant is closed. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

** This story has been updated

Surrey’s landmark Round Up Cafe is set to close forever.

The doors of the small Whalley restaurant will shut for good “probably by the end of the month,” according to co-owner Dennis Springenatic, whose family has owned and operated the diner for more than 60 years.

The ongoing pandemic is “100 per cent the reason it’s closing,” Springenatic said Tuesday (April 13).

“Before the pandemic, we were rocking it, very busy — lined up out the door on Saturdays and Sundays,” he said.

“Even when we opened up again in December, we got some business back – still struggling but, you know, breaking even and enough to keep going and maybe wait until the pandemic is over. But now with this current shutdown, that’s three weeks but probably going to get extended, right.”

• RELATED STORY: Landmark Surrey diner set to reopen after lengthy closure caused by COVID.

In early December, after close to eight months of closure, the Round Up reopened.

Recently, in line with provincial health orders, the restaurant has offered outdoor patio and takeout service, but no dining inside. “We have a few tables out front, and they’ll stay there until we’re closed,” Springenatic noted.

“The pandemic is destroying a lot of people, especially smaller businesses like this,” he added. “With the dining room closed and only doing takeout for such a long time, that’s impossible unless you’ve got super deep pockets.”

• RELATED STORY, from February 2020: New book rounds up stories about landmark Surrey diner.

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For decades, the Round Up has been a gathering spot in Whalley. Springenatic’s parents, Orest and Goldie, bought the diner in 1959 and turned it into a hub for Canadian-Ukrainian meals, and more.

Prior to his death in 1995, at age 69, Orest was a trailblazer with Whalley Little League, and the restaurant became a post-game magnet for baseball players and their families, among many others in the community.

“People still tell me how my dad coached them and they’d come to the restaurant with their families, play music on the old jukeboxes, all those stories,” Springenatic said.

“Other people talk about leaving the Dell or the Flamingo (bars) at two o’clock in the morning and seeing my dad there, working the nightshift, having him serving them, those memories.”

• RELATED STORY, from 2016: For 60 years, Whalley Little League has packed a wallop; Iconic youth baseball organization marks a milestone anniversary.

Looking ahead, there’s talk of renting the space to a cooking school, but plans are not firm.

Springenatic said his sister Colette is the primary hands-on owner of the restaurant these days, with Goldie having taken a step back. The diner is located in the heritage-registered Goodmanson building, constructed in 1949, mid-block on King George Boulevard, south of 105th Avenue.

“We’re still a few years away from selling,” Springenatic said, “but who knows, that could change if someone offers us the right money next week, then we’ll sell. That hasn’t happened yet, so right now we need to rent the building out to pay the property taxes.”

Round Up manager Tanya Abendroth has been employed at the restaurant for 45 years, and has plans to retire.

“It’s not easy to do,” Abendroth said, “but my husband and I bought a house in West Kelowna and we’re moving up there, where our boys are, and the kids really want us there.

“Now it’s time to spend more time with family, you know. I never really took time to be with our kids when they were young, and now I’ll have that time. I’ve got to move on with my life while I’m still able to do that.”

• READ MORE, from 2015: WHALLEY’S CORNER: Surrey’s Round-Up Café takes you back in time.

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Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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