Like many other commercial enterprises in Selkirk, the Dinette, was a business founded and run by new immigrants to Manitoba. In this case, the entrepreneurs, Anna and Walter Kropelnicki, were Ukrainians. Though they had arrived in Canada at different times and had come from different regions of Ukraine, they had met and were married in Winnipeg in 1948.
Their desire to operate a restaurant led them to purchase Sinclair’s Tea Rooms at 214 Manitoba Avenue in Selkirk. The Kropelnicki’s redecorated the Tea Room and reopened it as the Dinette in July of 1951. They hired former manager, Mrs. J. Tremback to stay on to help them learn the business and the community. Their menu featured fried chicken, fish and chips, and other home-cooked meals.
Their hard work and good cooking made the restaurant a huge success. After just six years the Dinette closed for renovations.
The extensive $30 000 renovation included the replacement of wooden booths with “fourteen plush new booths with sleek plastic coverings and sparkling new arborite tables.” Each table was complete with a coin operated music box that played the latest hits. The interior was painted pumpkin orange with apple green trim. Live potted maple and poplar trees added a natural flair to the surroundings. The floor was colourfully retiled, overhead beams hung, gleaming new appliances brought in, and a ten-stool horseshoe counter installed. A party table for large groups and a baby highchair for families were new amenities not offered before.
The exterior changes included the addition of red brick to the building’s façade and the replacement of the large shop window with a smaller one. The menu reflected the classy changes with the introduction of steak and porkchop dinner specials.
In 1957, Acting Mayor Cliff Morrison and Hugh Miller, Secretary-Treasurer of the Selkirk Chamber of Commerce attended the grand opening with flowers and congratulations. Mayor Cliff Morisson commented that the Dinette was the “finest restaurant to grace the Town of Selkirk.”
A Huge Success
Despite the updates and changes, the Dinette became cramped again as it became even more popular. In 1960, the building was expanded to the south so that a new kitchen, washrooms, and storage room could be installed. The larger restaurant interior went even more upscale yet, with wood panelling, new curtains, planters, and copper toned trellises. But the real excitement, at least for the staff, came with the arrival of a new automatic dishwasher!
In 1968, the Dinette celebrated its 20th anniversary with free birthday cake, coffee, and a retro-priced 75 cent turkey dinner.
A New Era for the Dinette
In 1968, Anna suddenly died at the age of 63. Although Walter continued to operate the restaurant, without Anna, it had lost some of its shine. Anna had been involved in many charitable and social activities around town; she was the President of the Business and Professional Women’s Club of Selkirk and the local Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League. She had an avid interest in the community and her church, as well as with the local senior citizen’s group. Her community involvement was evident in the continued community support of the Dinette after she passed.
In 1971, Walter remarried. Walter and his new wife, Mary, maintained the Dinette as a welcoming place that offered great food. It was still the place to eat in town. Throughout the 1970s the Kropelnicki’s continued serving great meals in a friendly environment. They hosted annual Christmas dinners and remained grateful for the community which they served.
Walter had owned the Dinette for 35 years when he decided to retire. In 1987, he closed the restaurant. Since that time the building has been put to several other uses. It has been a fabric store, a Manitoba Housing Office and is currently a thrift store, Twice Over Inc.
In retirement, Walter took up gardening and is often credited in the local paper for growing impressive vegetables. In 1999 he won top spot in Selkirk in Bloom in the Vegetable Garden Category. Walter died in 2009 at the age of 87. In the memories of many, Walter, Anna, and Mary remain the kind-hearted proprietors of one of the friendliest businesses on Manitoba Avenue.
The Dinette Collection
The Dinette Collection
Selkirk Enterprise, 1951, 1957, 1960, 1969
Selkirk Journal 1999
Winnipeg Free Press, 2009
The Selkirk Heritage Advisory Committee Building Inventory Binder