Gordon Holmes is preparing to sell 3 & 93 Dairy Bar after 25 years owning the iconic Elko business. Kimberley Vlasic/The Free Press

Gordon Holmes is preparing to sell 3 & 93 Dairy Bar after 25 years owning the iconic Elko business. Kimberley Vlasic/The Free Press

Sale of Elko dairy bar bittersweet for owner

Gordon Holmes reflects on 25 years at 3 & 93 Dairy Bar as he prepares to sell the iconic Elko business

For decades, tourists and locals alike have driven miles for the promise of a refreshing soft ice cream and friendly smile at 3 & 93 Dairy Bar.

The iconic Elko eatery has been a fixture on highways 3 and 93 since 1964 and has only grown in popularity under the ownership of Gordon Holmes.

The Grasmere local completed professional cooking and business administration courses, and worked for a small municipality in northern Alberta before the opportunity to buy the dairy bar arose.

Holmes was just 25 when he took on the seasonal business.

“That was quite something… I’d always wanted to have a business since I was a little kid,” he recalled.

“I used to just love to go to the candy store I was like ‘I want to have a store some day when I grow up’ because all kids love candy right.”

Since 1994, Holmes has steadily grown the business, hiring more staff to keep up with the busy summer trade and adding an ice business in 2013 to cater to events and campers.

The dairy bar is best known for its soft ice cream and has received numerous awards over the years.

Holmes has tried to keep the menu the same, occasionally adding items inspired by his travels and introducing gluten, dairy and sugar free options, as well as vegan and vegetarian.

New this year are chili dogs and chili cheese fries.

“It’s always been ice cream and hamburgers, french fries, hot dogs, onion rings, but I’ve added a few things to it, of course, over the years… different burger toppings, specialty burgers, fried pickles was a good one,” said Holmes.

“I got the idea for fried pickles while I was down travelling in Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee. When I was travelling in Colombia, I got the idea for the crispies and chocolate dipped soft ice cream cones.”

The dairy bar typically operates from May until September, receiving a fresh lick of paint before every opening weekend.

It caters to passing tourists and locals, and enjoys a roaring trade in the summertime.

“We get a lot of tourism but we get a lot of local support too,” said Holmes, adding some regulars travel from as far as Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass.

“I’ve met a lot of people over the years, watched a lot of children grow up in front of the window. They come here as little kids with their parents and then 25 years, now they’re coming with their own children, so it makes you feel a little bit old but it’s nice.”

Celebrities have also stopped by for a soft serve, along with travelling pets.

Holmes recalls serving country singer Dean Brody and Rob and Scott Niedermayer, well known hockey players from Cranbrook, as well as a miniature pig.

Anyone who has worked in hospitality knows there is the occasional odd customer and at 3 & 93 Dairy Bar, nothing has topped the backwards walking lady of 1995.

“There was this lady, and I still to this day do not know why, she walked backwards,” laughed Holmes.

“She got out of her car and then she backed up to the window like this,” he said, demonstrating in the sunny front room of his Elko home, “then she turned around and she placed her order, then she walked backwards to her car again and then she walked backwards to a picnic table.

“My dad and mom happened to be here too, and we were like ‘is there something wrong with that lady? She’s walking backwards. Is it a joke or something?’… the backwards walking lady, that was very interesting to see and I haven’t seen it since.

“You meet all types of people from all over the world. We used to have this elderly couple come every year from southern California and they’d come up in their motorhome every summer and want to come here for, I believe it was maple walnut ice cream. They said they couldn’t get that and ‘ooh it’s the best’.”

This year marks 25 years since Holmes bought 3 & 93 Dairy Bar and he’s planning an anniversary event for opening weekend, which will coincide with Mother’s Day on May 12.

The celebration will be bittersweet as this season could be his last with the business listed for sale.

Holmes said he has been thinking about selling for some time and has decided it’s time to move back to Grasmere to help his aging parents.

“They’ve helped me a lot over the years, up here bagging ice for me and my dad still is my fix-it man,” he said.

“If something needs fixing or repairing he’s out there doing it, so I want to move down to Grasmere and help them out on the family farm.”

Holmes will miss the Elko community and his customers and staff, as well as his prime location with its close proximity to Fernie, the U.S. border and Cranbrook.

“I’ll miss a lot of things about it, all the people I’ve met over the years, a lot of the fun times that we’ve had too, getting to be creative, getting to set your own hours,” he said.

“You’re independent, you can do whatever you want because you’re not tied to the rules of some big franchise corporation in Ontario or New York, or wherever their headquarters are, telling you ‘you can only do this, you can only do that’.

“It’s kind of nice to have that independence… it gives you more freedom.”

The dairy bar is being sold with the attached residence – a three-bed, one-bath home – and carries a price tag of $1.26 million.

For more information about the sale and opening weekend, visit Facebook.com/393dairybar.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

3 & 93 Dairy Bar is being sold by Property Guys. Kimberley Vlasic/The Free Press

3 & 93 Dairy Bar is being sold by Property Guys. Kimberley Vlasic/The Free Press

Gordon Holmes (centre) with his staff in 2018. Submitted

Gordon Holmes (centre) with his staff in 2018. Submitted

The dairy bar enjoys a roaring trade in the summertime. Submitted

The dairy bar enjoys a roaring trade in the summertime. Submitted

Gordon Holmes with friend Caroline Chang-Leng in 1999. Submitted

Gordon Holmes with friend Caroline Chang-Leng in 1999. Submitted

Just Posted

(File Photo)
Sparwood accepting submissions for 2021 Street Art Banner Program

Artwork depicting a love for Sparwood’s community and heritage will be accepted until Feb. 19

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

(File photo)
Interior Health declares COVID-19 outbreak at Teck’s Elk Valley operations over

48 cases were linked to three Teck locations in the Elk Valley

Joanna and Aysha Haines opened their business, Drift and Sonder, on Jan. 22. (Soranne Floarea)
New businesses popping up in Fernie despite pandemic headwinds

More businesses in Fernie have opened than closed their doors since the pandemic began

(File photo)
Sparwood backs calls to declare Canadian overdose crisis a national public health emergency

Paramedics across B.C. responded to more overdose calls in 2020 than ever before

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered B.C. teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

Most Read