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Mission Restaurant looking for a buyer

THREE HILLS — Gordon Snell has resigned himself to the fact he’s going to take a financial hit on the restaurant he poured his heart and soul into. But that hasn’t stopped the Three Hills resident from hoping the next operator of Mission Restaurant will enjoy success.

“We want to see it sold and operating. In reality, it doesn’t really make much difference to me, but it’s such a beautiful building.”

Snell and his wife Bonnie were among a half dozen local families that invested in Mission Restaurant. The $3-million business opened in 2006, with the Snells initially managing it.

It became popular with many local diners and drew customers from miles away, said Snell.

“We had people who would drive down from Edmonton, from Calgary — all over the place.”

Calgary restaurant reviewer John Gilchrist travelled to Three Hills to sample Mission Restaurant’s fare and gave it a thumbs-up.

Snell described the restaurant as “high-end casual.” It had seating for more than 200, split between a dining room and a banquet area. The eye-catching decor included a stone pizza oven.

“Everything was high-end,” said Snell, pointing out that he and his partners spent $350,000 on restaurant equipment.

Mission Restaurant closed after about three years of operation. Snell said operational problems arose after he and his wife stepped away. The economic downturn also played a role, he added, including the fact Mission Restaurant initially didn’t serve alcohol.

“I ended up getting a liquor licence, but it was probably less than a year before it closed.”

One of the shareholders ran into financial difficulties and upset some local residents by failing to pay his debts. The other shareholders decided they couldn’t carry the load themselves, and the bank behind the venture stepped in.

The inactive business is currently listed for sale at $850,000, pursuant to a court order obtained by the bank.

“We basically have no say in it now,” said Snell, adding that the list price is insufficient to cover the investors’ liability.

“If it’s sold, we’ll probably have to put some money up.”

Bob Sheddy of Century 21 PowerRealty in Airdrie has the listing for Mission Restaurant. He said he gets about one inquiry a month.

The restaurant tentatively sold late last year, but the deal fell through at the last minute.

“I drive by it every day and it breaks my heart to see it empty,” said Snell. “I know, particularly at the price you could get it for now, it’s very viable.

“If I was younger, it’d be up and running. I’d find a way to make it work.”

But at 65 and with health problems, it’s not an option for him.

Greg Skotheim, Three Hills’ director of operations and infrastructure, and a member of the town’s economic development committee, would love to see the vacant building returned to life.

“It’s kind of the gateway into our town,” he said.

There are other good restaurants in the community, added Skotheim, but Mission Restaurant was unique with its decor and food.

“I think it kind of brought the big city to our small town.”



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