For 40 years, the Pierce family has welcomed guests from near and far to experience the restored, antique charm of Hopkins Dining Parlour, and owner Gladys Pierce has no plans on slowing down.
The fine-dining restaurant is incredibly unique in a number of ways, beginning with it’s building — a 1905 mansion built by Edward Hopkins for his wife Minnie, and their three children.
Following the death of Edward and Minnie, their daughter lived in the old house until it was listed as part of an estate sale in the late 1970s.
Pierce, her late husband Wayne, and her late son Rick, saw potential in the old 2-½ story house, especially after visiting the famous Keg Mansion in Toronto.
“We were looking around there and had something to eat and Rick said, 'you know, there's a lot of old houses in Moose Jaw,'” said Pierce. “And at that time. . . they were tearing all kinds of lovely old buildings down, so that's why we came back and started looking.”
Pierce was no stranger to running a business, as she was already heading a malt shop and a bakery located in the mall. Her son had just finished a course on restaurant management, and the family felt Moose Jaw needed the kind of restaurant that was more than fast food.
“Back then, there was really very, very few restaurants in town,” said Pierce. “We were very busy for the first couple of years.”
Hopkins Dining Parlour opened in 1979, after a sweep of restoration inside the house. The original spiral staircase, located where the restaurant’s lounge currently sits, was gone long before the Pierce’s arrived, so they built their own staircase.
They opened up the top floor, which had originally been bedrooms, and removed the veranda off the back of the house to build the kitchen. The rest, including the front parlour and the small den that Pierce joked is likely where Mr. Hopkins snuck in a smoke when his religious wife wasn’t looking, remain the same.
“We did as little changes as we could, took out as little as we had to,” said Pierce, on a tour for the Moose Jaw Express. She pointed out a number of antiques, including the original fireplace and a stained glass window purchased from Georgia at an auction.
Now, the Hopkins house features four levels available for dining, including the Top of the Parlour back room added in 1985 and a banquet room downstairs.
The building is home to an incredible amount of history, including its popularity with off-duty Snowbirds pilots back when the lounge first opened — stories that Pierce refused to tell, for propriety’s sake.
Some of the house’s history even remains, in what many believe is the ghost of Mrs. Minnie Hopkins. Hopkins Dining Parlour has been featured as a paranormal hotspot in Saskatchewan on a 2002 episode of Creepy Canada, and a few other books detailing the supernatural.
“Even nonbelievers have seen things and a lot of the staff have things happen,” said Pierce, before telling a story of a tour she did for a group of students that led them to the basement.
“There was one time when I was down there and shut the lights off and of course, the kids see things,” said Pierce. “And I turned the lights back on and one of the kids was missing and I said, 'where did he go?' We found him under the table.”
The restaurant is also a hotspot for tourism, which Pierce says has been an important part of its success for so many years.
“Thank heavens for the tourists, because they’ve seen all the franchised places,” said Pierce. “They come from cities where they’ve seen all that, and so this [kind of place], they like to see.”
In celebration of their 40th birthday, Hopkins Dining Parlour is planning on bringing back a week of specials from Sept. 17-23, featuring menu items from the past priced according to the era in which they were originally served.
The Medieval Feast will also return, every Friday night in September and October, featuring finger foods, staff dressed to impress, and even some strolling minstrels fo entertain.
The official birthday party will take place on Sept. 21, with live music and giveaways throughout the evening.
Pierce looks back on all of the hard work she put into the restaurant, alongside her family and her dedicated staff, and insists that she has no plans to be anywhere else.
“It's a little more work now for sure, and I'm just going to keep going as long as I can,” said Pierce.
Hopkins Dining Parlour offers tours of the century-old house in the afternoons and is always taking reservations to dine in one of Moose Jaw’s most notoriously classy destinations.