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And then he pauses. Smiles. "I've always wondered what would have happened if it hadn't been -55 degrees in Banff the day we skied there..."
The West Coast had definitely grabbled Grills' attention. For the next few years John bounced back and forth between Vancouver and Whistler. Tried his hand at a bunch of stuff. Had lots of fun, of course. But nothing really stuck. In 1979, he started work as a bar manager with Keg Restaurants in Vancouver. And for whatever reason, that job clicked with him. John had finally found his place. The food and beverage business would pretty much dominate his life for the next thirty years.
Now I'm not going to bore you with all the details of his early enterprises. Let's just say that between coming back to Whistler in '83 to open the Keg On the Mountain (after the fire) and returning to Vancouver to manage the Irish Rovers' many drinking outlets at Expo 86, well, young John kept himself immensely busy.
It just so happens that Lorraine decided to enter his life at that very moment. "I met her at Stamp's Landing," he says. And laughs. "My whole world that summer revolved around the False Creek area. That was ground zero for me."
Whatever. Work was one thing. Love quite another. And meeting Lorraine, says John, had nothing to do with work. "She was a physiotherapist," he recounts. "Had actually studied in school with (Whistler legend) Suzie Young. But when I met her, she was planning on moving to Australia."
Australia? John was crushed. Still, the two decided to keep seeing each other. And after a few months, the Australia plan somehow had morphed into a Whistler plan. "It was Lorraine who convinced me to return to Whistler," says John with a straight face. "She'd been offered a job at Whistler Physiotherapy and she was keen on taking it. And frankly, I really didn't have any objections."
John had only one condition. Lorraine had to marry him first. Which she did in due course. And the newlyweds arrived in Whistler ready to set down serious roots.
They never left. John buried himself in his work... eventually opening Zeusski's in 1992, followed by Thai One On two years later, while Lorraine continued to apply her magical touch to Whistler's ailing and/or injured bodies at WP (where she still works). Meanwhile three very active young Grills soon appeared on the scene. And mom and dad were kept even more busy.
There's more to the story of course. After all the Grills have been living in Whistler for 25 years now. Still, what fascinates me most about John's decision to run for council is just how passionate he is about defending Whistler's unique way of life. "Most of us," he says, "came here with the same attitude — we were a risk-taking, mountain-loving, fun-focused group of young people. I mean, look at this place. Look at all we have here. It's just so beautiful." A long pause. "My main job, as far as I see it, is to keep that culture alive for future generations."