Some familiar faces are saying goodbye to their roles at the iconic Hope Hotel.
Chandel Lefeuvre ran the hotel with her mother Darlene, sister Michelle and her late father, Geoff. After decades at the hotel, the trio is stepping away and it has moved into the hands of new owners.
Chandel described the feeling of leaving the hotel as surreal.
“It’s been like a third sibling,” she said.
Due to COVID, the hotel’s sale has been roughly a year in the making; the need for added safety hampered the usual steps like building inspections.
More than 30 years ago, Geoff ran bars for Fraser Valley entrepreneur Tommy Tidball; in fact, The Hope Hotel was Tidball’s first hotel. Tidball passed away this January and the age of 93.
Prior to taking over the Hope Hotel, Geoff was the general manager of several hotels, including the Fraser Arms Hotel and the Biltmore Hotel in Vancouver. The Biltmore is where Geoff and Darlene first met.
“He was a hero in Hope,” Chandel said. “(The Hope Hotel) was his dream. He had a dream he wanted to be in business for himself, and that’s when he came to Hope. In ‘87, he purchased the hotel.”
Following the renovation of the bar, business was booming.
“If you weren’t indoors at 8 p.m., you weren’t getting in,” Chandel recalled.
In those days, the town was rife with industry, with an active mill up at Boston Bar, constant trucking and logging. But as some industries waned, so, too, did business for the bar.
“When you don’t have that disposable income, it’s too expensive to go out,” Chandel said.
With tighter liquor laws and the indoor smoking ban coming down, the bar took an additional hit.
Geoff Lefeuvre passed away suddenly on March 9, 2018 at the age of 66. He was a fixture in the community, a friendly face and tireless worker behind the counter of the liquor store. Frank Granovski wrote a letter to The Standard in 2018, recording his memories of the friendly business owner.
“Geoff never had anything bad to say about anyone. He was happy and a positive soul,” Granovski wrote. “We often chatted. He loved watching hockey, and more recently the Winter Olympics. We joked about him being older yet in better shape than I.”
Chandel said Geoff was addicted to his work.
“He was a workaholic. He never smoked, never did I see my dad have a drink,” she added. “(Work) was his thing, and it ultimately took his life.”
No one at the Hope Hotel had a day off for three months after his passing as the magnitude of the work he had done became more real.
“He was seven days a week, very controlling. He just wanted to do everything his way,” Chandel recalled. “It was hard (taking over). The reason we sold is the pace was very demanding.”
Chandel said she and Michelle feared losing Darlene to the gruelling pace of the work. Additionally, the hotel itself needed a lot of work, which the family wasn’t prepared to handle.
“It was time for somebody that had a vision to come in and to make it great again,” Chandel concluded. “We’re 100 per cent behind (the new owners) in full confidence that they’re going to do well.”
Chandel said the locals who frequented the Hope Hotel and the bar are sad to see the family move on.
“We’ve always had a really good rapport with everybody from the liquor store to the pub and the people around the building,” Chandel said. “We always treated everybody the same and had respect for everybody and got to know everybody.”
With the sale of the hotel, Darlene will retire. Chandel said Michelle will take some time off to spend with her family. As for Chandel herself, she’s excited to begin her work at Gardner Chevrolet Buick GMC.
Her many years at the Hope Hotel holds countless memories for the Lefeuvre family, both good and bad.
“Sure, there’s been some bad times, but for the most part, I had a great time, a really good time,” Chandel said.
Though Hope and the Hope Hotel itself had to adapt to changing times, a consistent group of usuals at the bar still gathered, forming decade-long friendships with the hotel staff.
“I got close with all of them, and then they got close with each other and look out for each other,” Chandel said, her voice breaking with emotion. “I’m going to absolutely miss every single one of them. Every single one of them brought something into my life, and that’s going to be the toughest part, for sure.”
Chandel laughed as she said she would also miss being the boss.
“We appreciate everybody’s support immensely over the years,” Chandel added. “We’re so grateful for all those years getting to know (everyone). We really appreciate it.”