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Home away from home: Bidding farewell to Rosie's House (for now)

The Creekside restaurant shuts down this week — but there is hope for a return

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Looking back at the past 14 years, Rosie Schimpf struggled to come up with a memory that would perfectly encapsulate her time at the helm of one of Creekside's favourite restaurants.

That's because they were all significant in their own way.

"Every day was fantastic. It was," she said. "The people, my kids, my locals and my following, they are amazing. The people there are just amazing."

The woman behind Rosie's House is getting ready to close up shop at the family style pizza joint this week with the restaurant slated for a complete teardown and rebuild. With the renovation expected to take at least a year, the future of Rosie's House is up in the air at this point — although there is a chance Schimpf will return to the location she's called home for the past decade and a half. (Schimpf ran Boston Pizza out of the same space until it was rebranded as Rosie's House nearly three years ago.)

Reflecting on her time in Creekside, Schimpf's nostalgia extended first and foremost to the people who helped make her restaurant a success, from her cast of regulars to the diligent staff she refuses to consider as anything other than family.

"We call it a family-run business, and they're not biologically all mine, but we're family," she said.

Those tight bonds seemed to have struck a chord with the staff that has been lucky enough over the years to land a job at Schimpf's restaurant in a town where high employee turnover is the norm.

"One of the biggest things that's always stood out for me with Rosie is the way her employees talk about her," recalled Pauline de Bretan, a longtime friend of Schimpf's.

"You know, the young people come into town and they're all a little bit screwed up and willy-nilly, and she just reins them in, and she's very fair and lenient."

The key to Schimpf's philosophy is remembering what brings young workers to Whistler from all around the globe.

"I've never treated anybody as if they've come to Whistler to work. They've come to Whistler to enjoy Whistler," she said. "They need to work in order to enjoy Whistler, so if you give them that opportunity ... they will come to work and be happier."

Former server Katie Bechtel, who also works in Pique's front office, spoke about the devotion "Mamma Rose" has to her employees. "She has helped me get my life together in more ways than I can describe. She's helped me grow up, to be honest," said Bechtel, who added that Schimpf's husband Kevin shares that selfless streak.

"I remember, I couldn't get to work on time due to car issues, so Kevin came and picked me up. And once my shift was over, he took me home and fixed my car. I cried because it was so generous," she said. "I definitely brought him a huge bottle of Baileys for being my saviour."

Schimpf was known to take care of staff and customers alike — and not just the regulars. de Bretan spoke of the time an elderly couple in the restaurant mentioned how they couldn't find a place to stay on their visit to Whistler.

"Rosie just handed over her house keys and said, 'Here's the address, go let yourself in,'" she said. "That sort of generosity is just so natural for her."

It's fitting then that Schimpf rebranded as Rosie's House when her Boston Pizza franchisee license ran out in 2015; the intention has always been to make the pizzeria feel like an extension of her own home.

And although I'm fairly confident Schimpf's kitchen isn't typically overrun with hordes of school-aged children covered in tomato sauce, she thought nothing of opening up the restaurant's kitchen to busloads of students from local elementary schools to make their own pizzas.

"She was very generous to the schools," de Bretan said.

Schimpf has also been a major advocate for Creekside's small-but-mighty business community, never missing an opportunity to promote her fellow small-business owners in the oft-overlooked neighbourhood. (Her personal motto: "Keep it in the Creek.")

"We try very hard to keep things going in Creekside, so if you need milk, you send them to the grocery store. If they want to go for a pint of beer after everything's closed, you send them over to Roland's. You want one of the best breakfasts in town, you go to (Southside Diner). You need some fine dining, you go over to the Rim Rock or Aura," she said. "We really just try to make Creekside thrive."

The last day of operations for Rosie's House is this Sunday, Sept. 10.

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