When Pemberton's Mile One Eating House went up for sale about a year ago, the owners fielded a litany of offers from near and far for the cherished burger joint.
"There was an explosive amount of interest, and from all kinds of scenarios: people who are in the business, people who aren't in the business, people who thought they host nice dinner parties so maybe they should own a restaurant," said co-owner Randy Jones. "Everything on the planet came through our advisors."
Ultimately, however, it's a buyer from a little bit closer to home taking over the reins this month: Mile One sous chef Erin Kerr, who has been with the award-winning restaurant since it first opened its doors in 2011.
For the 27-year-old Whistler native, the opportunity to take over one of the Sea to Sky's most beloved eateries is a dream that's been a long time coming.
"I've wanted my own restaurant since I was a little kid, and I was thinking last night how crazy it is that now I actually have one," she said.
Kerr's transition into ownership is the natural progression of a business that has always prided itself on putting people before profits. Jones said that, despite several financially lucrative offers on the table, it simply made sense to carry on Mile One's legacy with someone who has been intimately familiar from Day 1 with the restaurant's bottom-up ethos.
"It was always a bonus that someone would (take over) who shares the vision and understands why Mile One is successful," explained Jones.
"We've always tried to do the right thing, and it's cost us more. We pay more for products, we pay more for employees, we have benefit components for our staff. So we really didn't want to see someone come in and tear all that apart just to put a cheaper product in place, pay the staff less, and try to refine the whole thing to make more money."
While the emphasis will remain on dishing out the kind of high-quality, rustic comfort food that Mile One has become known for, Kerr is eager to inject a bit of youth into the restaurant to better reflect the changing community around her. First on her to-do list? Switching up the playlist.
"It'll be pretty basic stuff from the start. Like, I want to change the music," she said with a laugh. "But on a bigger picture scale, I want to do nights with breweries, cask nights, and other events like that to get people out. Because there's really not much to do in Pemberton at night.
"I just want to keep things fresh and young and interesting for the kind of community that Pemberton is turning into."
For Jones, the decision to step back from the restaurant he helped build, with co-owner Cindy Yu, stemmed primarily from not wanting to become complacent, which can be a death knell in an industry that thrives on constant progression. As a guy who's been working in kitchens since he was 16, it seemed like the right time to focus on his latest passion: cattle ranching.
"There are opportunities for the restaurant to grow, opportunities for other locations, for longer operating hours, for catering components, for bigger retail offerings. There are tons of things the business can do, but when I sat back and looked at what my interests are, at 41 years old, I'm really enjoying building the ranch and the cattle business, and it still ties back to the restaurant at a certain stage," he said, referring to an historic ranch he bought a year ago in the Chilcotins that will eventually supply Mile One with premium beef cuts on its retail side, and whole steers for special, one-off dinners on the restaurant side.
"I have the opportunity to follow my heart and my dream, and I did that with Mile One, so now I want to do that with something else. In turn, we're giving a young local an opportunity to follow her dream. It all just makes sense."
Kerr officially took over at Mile One on March 1. For more information, visit mileoneeatinghouse.com.