Legacy Businesses often have their roots in legacy buildings
A very different silhouette of a familiar landmark, used to grace the horizon as you look towards the over pass. The building which we presently know as a favorite watering hole in town, “The Silver Buckle”, started its journey of brick and mortar as the offices and warehouse for 5 Roses Flour / Lake of the Woods Milling Co. in 1916. The original structure stood 6 stories tall on the West side, and 5 stories on the East. In the 1970’s, when the building was under renovation to become the “Inn at the Old Mill”, the height of the structure required life safety upgrades which at the time, the owner was not willing to foot the cost of, so down came 3 stories!
The first floor addition was added at that time of renovation, to recover some of the lost real estate for use of a bar and restaurant. By 1980, the “Inn at the Old Mill” was retiring and the “Silver Buckle” was born. 40 years later and there have been some changes to businesses sharing the footprint in the building, but tried, tested, and true, the Buckle remains a likeable hangout for Medicine Hat locals.
The building itself has been designed to attract people for many reasons. Centrally located, this bar really can be anyone’s local. The lot itself can handle event tents, and parking, and lends itself to an elevated deck, for summertime shenanigans. The main floor has a large kitchen which publishes a diverse but simple menu full of great anytime food. The poster boasted special is a $5.55 steak sandwich “All day, Everyday”, which makes the Buckle a popular lunch spot.
The main bar has various areas from VLT machines, to tiered sports viewing, intimate booths, social tables, dart boards, pool tables, a room for events (with a new cozy corner). In the evenings there are a variety of live music and entertainers throughout the month, and seasonally there is over the top antics to keep the spirits alive (and flowing). Upstairs is a retro furniture lounge area, available for free bookings, reminiscent of a cross between Pee Wee’s Playhouse and Boogie Nights. Beyond that, there are residential apartments upstairs, and a sufficiently creepy basement which is home to an annual haunted house.
Having a building which has been a permanent structure in our local lives, definitely helps create a consumer trust in the business which it houses. But remaining relevant requires consistent renovations to keep interest piqued. This is where a strong business acumen, plenty of energy, and a bit of a risk taker at the helm comes into play. Meet Devon Potvin, also standing the tests of time over the past 40 years, the owner of the building, and largest shareholder of the business for the past 15 years . Devon has a passion for the building and its history, the businesses within its walls, and more than anything, the people who continue to show up, eat, drink, and socialize to keep the building alive. I think that Devon’s passion for people is the reason for his success, and it is palpable from every aspect of the operations.
Devon and his business partners, Cathy Shepard Goldade, and Lael Zeleny, are always tirelessly working behind the scenes to increase customer comforts at their sweet venue. There have been a few different ideas come and go at the building over the years…from restaurants and night clubs, to smaller changes like the seating arrangements and draft systems. Every move, made as a response to consumer demand ultimately to deliver a better product. The unexpected shutdown during COVID – 19, is painful for all of our businesses, but “The Buckle” is using the downtime to do some maintenance and repairs, and polish itself up, and be ready and waiting with open arms to host all of us and our antics.
So next time you are taking a drive past 687 South Railway Street, think about what the area might have looked like 100 years ago. Picture the era of the flour mill, fast forward to the grand opening 40 years ago, and then appreciate the moment now. The reliable comfort of this local building, and the people who work hard to keep it a permanent structure and desirable destination.