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Best of Pemberton

At this time last year, in the early months of the pandemic, celebrating Pemberton’s best and brightest in Pique’s annual readers poll felt untimely, to say the least. 

But a year later, as health restrictions loosen up and we welcome back a steady stream of visitors, it feels like the veil has lifted, much like the masks that have obscured our faces throughout COVID-19. 

So, it is with a clear conscience and a full heart that Pique returns with another edition of Best of Pemberton, as voted by you. Although I’m sure you’re sick of hearing from political leaders and car ads about all the ways the pandemic has offered its share of silver linings, there’s no denying how the chance to reflect over these past challenging months has reiterated what’s important to us all. And for Pembertonians, it’s clear the pandemic only reinforced how important supporting local truly is. 

With that, we thank everyone who took the time to fill out the survey, and we offer our heartiest congratulations to all the finalists. In the paraphrased words of the one and only George Costanza, “We’re back, baby!” 

Quintessential Pemberton

Favourite Pemberton Neighbourhood

1. Pemberton Meadows

2. The Glen

3. Mount Currie 

Most Desirable Amenity Missing from Pemberton 

1. Swimming pool 

2. Ice rink

3. More restaurants 

No. 1 Reason We Are Not Like Whistler

1. Sense of community 

2. Less touristy 

3. Farming

News Story of the Year

1. Scotiabank announces closure of Pemberton branch 

2. Lil’wat Nation clears all active cases of COVID-19 following cluster

3. The VOP’s ongoing response to COVID-19 

Favourite COVID-19 Self-Isolated Activity

1. Gardening 

2. Biking 

3. Hiking 

Favourite Volunteer

1. Graham Turner

2. Karen Tomlinson

3. Shirley Henry 

Favourite Pembertonian

1. Bob Menzel 

2. Katelyn Spink

3. Graham Turner 

Best Local Environmental Initiative

1. Integration with Lil’wat Nation/N’quatqua for opportunities to learn from traditional knowledge 

2. Salmon restoration

3. Bear attractant management 

Passing the torch 

Graham Turner, Pemberton’s favourite volunteer for the fourth year running, has a simple request of his fellow locals: Don’t vote for him next year. 

“My goal was to not win this, to be honest with you, and to slowly pass the torch on,” he says. 

The founder of Pemberton BMX and the former president of the Pemberton Chamber of Commerce until he left the volunteer role late last year, Turner’s legacy in the community he calls home is already well established. And with a plethora of dedicated volunteers commiting their time and efforts to great causes across Spud Valley, Turner is hopeful someone else will take his well-earned honour next year. 

“In some cases, I’ve tried to kick the ball along the field and I feel like I’ve passed the ball onto other people in the community to run with it,” he says. “There are so many different volunteer … opportunities in our community and we should all take some time out of our busy lives to kick the ball along to someone else and leave it better than when you arrived. That’s my mantra.” 

In his time at the chamber, Turner helped establish a paid executive director position and secured long-term funding, and he’s heartened to see other local organizations set up governance boards so that others like him can be compensated for contributing to causes they hold dear. 

“That’s another legacy left at the chamber: we’re a governance board, which allows a board to not feel so overwhelmed having to do everything,” he explains. “You can sit on a board and help make decisions, and that has certainly helped some organizations in Pemberton with that governance piece just to ensure it’s moving in the right direction and being governed properly.” 

On the BMX side of things, Turner has taken a bit of a step back, although you can still find him announcing from the sidelines on race nights. He’s also taken on the role as the Lil’wat Nation’s new manager of retail operations, and has established a clothing and accessories line made and designed locally, called Pemberton Brand.

Media, Arts and Culture 

Favourite Pemberton Artist/Artisan

1. Painter Levi Nelson

2. Painter Vanessa Stark

3. Painter Karen Love 

Favourite Photographer

1. Anastasia Chomlack

2. Amie LeBlanc

3. Toshi Kawano 

Favourite Band/Musician

1. Dakota Pearl

2. Grateful Greg Reamsbottom (of the Hairfarmers)

3. The Spiritual Warriors (formerly known as Kalan Wi) 

Favourite Writer

1. Lisa Richardson

2. Anna Helmer

3. Blair Kaplan

Food and Drink 

Favourite Overall Restaurant

1. Barn Nork

2. The Hwy. Café

3. Mile One Eating House 

Best Value

1. The Hwy. Café

2. Mile One Eating House

3. Grimm’s Gourmet & Deli 

Best Breakfast

1. Blackbird Bakery

2. North Arm Farm

3. The Hwy. Café 

Best Plant-Based Menu

1. The Hwy. Café

2. Stay Wild Natural Health

3. Barn Nork 

Best Takeout

1. Barn Nork

2. The Hwy. Café

3. Mile One Eating House

Best Dessert

1. Blackbird Bakery

2. The Pony

3. The Hwy. Café 

Best Coffee

1. Mount Currie Coffee Company

2. Blackbird Bakery

3. Lynx Café 

Best Burger

1. Mile One Eating House

2. The Pony

3. The Hwy. Café 

Best Beer Selection

1. The Beer Farmers

2. The Pony

3. Mile One Eating House 

Best Service

1. The Hwy. Café

2. Mile One Eating House 

3. The Pony 

Best Patio

1. Fescue’s at Big Sky

2. The Beer Farmers

3. Mile One Eating House

Keeping the faith 

They say so much of life is timing, and if you’re Leonel Marques and Laura Mooney, the owner-operators of one of Pemberton’s first all-vegan eateries, the Hwy. Café, the past year has proved that in spades. 

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, Marques was laid off from his kitchen job at Town Square Restaurant. That night, Mooney mentioned a space for lease she saw in Pemberton’s industrial park, and the couple jumped at the chance to open their own spot. In case that wasn’t enough, two days later Mooney learned she was pregnant with their first child. 

For the average person, it might have all been too much to handle, but for the industrious Marques and Mooney, it only hastened what was a long-held dream. 

“I know it’s bad to say, but that whole situation accelerated our life into another direction that’s been a blessing for us,” the 32-year-old Marques says. “I’ve always wanted to own my own restaurant and it just happened for us.”

With the café not even a year old, it’s clear the couple is doing something right. Taking home awards for Best Value, Best Service, Best Plant-based Menu and Favourite New Business, The Hwy. Café is proof that an all-vegan restaurant can be not only delicious, but profitable, too. 

Marques, a restaurant industry veteran of 15 years, says when he would tell people they were opening a café with an 100-per-cent plant-based menu, he was usually met with disbelief. 

“I would get scoffed and laughed at. People would say, ‘I’ll give you two months. You’ll never make it.’ In that sense, it was a motivator to us,” he notes. “We believe in what we do so much. Laura and I both always had the faith that we knew this was going to work. Having faith in ourselves and the quality of our product, it speaks for itself.” 

With a focus on home-cooked comfort food like hearty Beyond Meat burgers and wraps, The Hwy. Café counters the prevailing notion some may have of vegan restaurants, a niche the couple saw needed filling in the Pemberton market. 

“Laura and I are both plant-based,” Marques says. “We used to live in the industrial park and there was nothing, really, for us to eat. There weren’t that many options other than salad or fries … It’s all comfort food. A lot of downhome eats. Nothing that people can’t pronounce.” 

The couple were also adamant about keeping prices accessible, which proved to be a godsend in a global health crisis when money was tight and dining out became more of a luxury.  

“Honestly, I think we came in at the right time with a price point that was great, especially when people weren’t working full-time on limited hours,” says Marques. “Then once they realized they liked it, they kept coming back. It was such an organic thing. We didn’t do any advertising or anything. It was just through social media, our Instagram and word of mouth, that it really just took off.” 

Learn more at thehwycafe.ca. 

Sports and Recreation 

Favourite Golf Course

1. Big Sky Golf Club

2. Sunstone Golf Club 

Favourite Bike Trail

1. Cream Puff

2. Happy Trail

3. Fat Tug 

Favourite Hiking Trail 

1. Lumpy’s Epic

2. One Mile

2. TIE: Valley Loop and Cool Creek Canyon 

Favourite Lake

1. Birkenhead

2. Gates

3. Anderson 

Favourite Winter Adventure Activity

1. Backcountry skiing and snowboarding 

2. Cross-country skiing

3. Snowshoeing 

Cruz control 

To butcher a certain lemonade-themed saying, when life gives you a pile of dirt, you make a jump out of it. 

At least that’s the approach 19-year-old BMX rider and mountain biker Lucas Cruz and his family took when the vast majority of races were abruptly swept off the table in the pandemic. 

“It was kind of a blessing in disguise, in some ways,” says Pemberton’s four-time Favourite Summer Athlete. “We really rallied together as a family and built up our property with dirt jumps and pump tracks, so we were still training and riding real hard.” 

Not that Cruz didn’t have a few chances to shine on the podium. Taking part in last year’s reworked Crankworx Summer Series, he won the dual slalom at Kicking Horse and took home second in the same event at Silver Star before injury prevented him from competing in the event’s final week at Sun Peaks. 

The limited race schedule also gave the teenager a greater appreciation for the few opportunities he did have. 

“We were just so happy to be out there and racing and riding with everyone again. It was a really amazing experience,” he says. 

Cruz isn’t content to rest on his elite status as one of B.C’s best riders, though, which could help explain why he has become a perennial favourite in this category. 

“I really try to give back as much as I can to the community and get out there on the BMX nights and help out or volunteer, coach and that sort of stuff,” he adds.

Business Services

Favourite Farm

1. North Arm Farm

2. Laughing Crow Organics

3. Helmer’s Organic Farm 

Favourite Wellness/Fitness Service

1. Ivy Esthetics

2. Leaning Cedar Therapy

2. TIE: Pemberton Valley Wellness and Evergreen Fitness & Yoga 

Favourite Hotel or Bed and Breakfast

1. Pemberton Valley Lodge

2. Joffre Creek Cabins

3. Loghouse B&B 

Favourite Tourism Operator

1. The Beer Farmers

2. Copper Cayuse Outfitters

3. Blackcomb Helicopters 

Favourite Building/Construction Company

1. BC Passive Haus

2. New Leaf Contracting

3. Fitzgerald Building Company 

Best Wedding Venue

1. TIE: North Arm Farm and Riverlands Red Barn

1. Big Sky Golf Club

3. Dreamcatcher Meadows 

Favourite Gas Station

1. Pemberton Petro Canada

2. Lil’wat Gas Station

3. AC Gas 

Favourite New Business

1. The Hwy. Café

2. Pemberton Haven Ice Cream Truck

3. Sea to Sky Optometry 

Favourite Realtor

1. Katelyn Spink

2. Danielle Menzel

3. Lisa Hilton

Favourite Summer Adventure Activity

1. Mountain biking

2. Backcountry hiking

3. Boating 

Favourite Athlete

1. Mountain biker and BMX rider Lucas Cruz

2. Paralympic sit-skier Ethan Hess

3. Freeskier Logan Pehota