The closure of Sassy’s Restaurant in Central Saanich this Saturday also closes the door on the longest-running employer in the region.
Cory Porter, who opened the restaurant as part of the Smitty’s chain, said he does not know how many people have worked at the restaurant over the years, but that the figure is likely to be in the thousands. “Lots of people got their first job there,” said Jen Porter, Cory’s daughter.
Cory said many of them later become customers themselves and he himself remains in touch with many of them.
Other employees have worked for years, over time becoming members of the Porters’ extended family. They include Rich Nelson (30 years) and Barry McGarvy (32 years).
Chrissy Olsen, who has worked at the restaurant for 25 years since taking her first job at Sassy’s, is currently going through mixed emotions as she prepares for Saturday’s closure. “For me, it hasn’t actually really hit me,” she said. “But it’s coming up soon and it is probably going to hit me on the day.”
Olsen said the most rewarding part of her job has been working with her family and getting to know the community including many of the regulars. “You get to know the community,” she said. Over the years, she has also come to know her longtime colleagues like McGarvy.
”We have become so close with everybody who works there,” he said. “He is part of Sassy’s. I cannot imagine not seeing him every day.”
Olsen also thinks of the Porters as very close family members. Olsen said Cory Porter was very supportive of her when she was grieving for her parents, as well as in her First Nations’ identity. Olsen is now repaying this support over the years by organizing a First Nations ceremony to mark the closure.
“First Nations communities love Sassy’s and they feel welcome,” said Olsen.
Like so many close to the family, the sudden death in 2011 of Porter’s granddaughter Sapphire, or Sassy as many knew her, shocked Olsen. “She was really close to Cory and his heart was broken,” said Olsen. “It probably still is.”
Olsen said she still hopes a last-minute buyer will come forward to buy the restaurant off Porter, who is closing to look after his wife diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Naturally, Olsen plans to stay in touch with the Porters and her soon-to-be-former colleagues. As for her own plans, Olsen is unsure.
“Right now, I cannot imagine working anywhere else,” she said.
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