Normally the walk from Skier's Plaza to Marketplace shouldn't take any longer than a few minutes. Today, it will take Taylor Wilson close to two-and-a-half hours, enough time for well-wishers and burrito junkies to bid the entrepreneur a fond farewell as he closes down one of Whistler's most beloved local haunts: Dups Burritos.
Housed in a small, unassuming spot on Main Street, Dups has been residents' go-to spot for affordable, no-fuss Mexican eats going on 21 years.
Wilson, who took over Dups 11 years ago, said the time was right to move on from a community in flux.
"I've been 20 years in Whistler, and it's not for my family anymore," he said, pointing to rising costs and the growing corporatization of Whistler as a main driver behind his decision to relocate.
"I moved here when it was a ski town," he added, "now it's a ski resort."
In fact, when Wilson first arrived here, he remembers picketers outside the newly opened Marketplace McDonald's protesting the world's most recognizable brand setting up shop in sleepy Whistler.
Boy, how times have changed.
"I thought it was awesome because I was under the same mindset. And now, (large corporations are) all there is," he noted.
There's been lots of talk recently about climbing lease rates making it tough on small business owners in town. Earlier this month, Peaked Pies co-owner Alex Relf told Pique that his out-of-country landlord plans to jack up the rent by a whopping 70 per cent next April, a devastating blow to his bottom line.
Wilson had a much different experience with his landlord, who he commended for consistently supporting local business; Wilson said the rent remained unchanged for his first five years of operation.
"To be totally honest with you, it had nothing to do with our rent. Our landlord is awesome," added Wilson.
If anyone should know how to preserve the local fabric of a community, it's Wilson, who, from Day 1 made it his top priority to keep Whistler's blue-collar workers happy. He regularly donated to grassroots causes, brought in compostable plates and cutlery before it was all the rage, never raised menu prices, and served portion sizes bordering on the obscene — memories of the massive beef- and chicken-packed Chief Burrito still haunt my waistline.
"For all those people struggling to pay rent, I always thought of myself when I first moved here and I knew we needed to keep those people going," Wilson said.
"That's what I'm going to miss the most: the underlying current of how Whistler runs — the people making the beds, cleaning up the puke and the poop and whatever. The heartbeat of the actual town."
Feeling nostalgic on Dups' last day of operation, Wilson remembered the frenetic two weeks that Whistler hosted the 2010 Olympics as a particularly special time in the restaurant's history, a history that is intertwined with one of Canada's most iconic Olympic moments: Canadian skeleton racer Jon Montgomery's now-infamous village beer chug.
"When he won the gold and then came down the gondola and that person handed him that pitcher of beer, that was one of my employees, funnily enough. Then the next day he's in my restaurant eating with a gold medal around his neck," Wilson beamed. "That right there was a cream-of-the-crop experience."
The Dups location will fortunately be staying in local hands, with the Brickworks Hospitality Group — the Whistler-based owners of Brickworks and Three Below — set to take over the space.
Priyanka Kathuria explained the concept for their latest restaurant, Main Street Noodles, a noodle bar slated to open in November.
"Basically it's going to be an affordable local eatery inspired by Asian cuisine, by different flavours from around Asia. You can choose your protein, we'll have different noodles, a couple of poke bowls," she said. "We know what locals have been asking for, and that's what we're trying to deliver."
The noodle-bar concept is one that has been batted around the company for some time, Kathuria said. It only took the right location to turn the idea into a reality, adding another distinct element to Main Street's mom-and-pop vibe.
"We've got some great examples around us with Peaked Pies, Splitz, La Cantina — they're all successful, locally owned businesses that are doing that quick, affordable takeout food," noted Kathuria.
"That's what Main Street, for me, is about. We're not competing with corporate brands, and that's what's so nice about it."
Pick up Pique closer to Main Street Noodles' opening day to learn more about the restaurant.