Airdrie Smitty’s to shut down amid continuing economic woes
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been felt across the business community in Airdrie, and the re-establishment of government restrictions on April 7 has led to another restaurant casualty.
Earlier this month, the Airdrie Smitty’s in East Lake announced the diner will be closing its doors for good on April 30. In a Facebook post, the restaurant owners indicated the decision came as a result of tightening restrictions on in-person dining.
“We want to send a huge thank you to our staff and customers,” stated the April 8 post. “It has been an honour and a privilege to work beside and serve those in our community. We wish you all good health and success in the future, and encourage you to support your local Airdrie restaurants.”
People in the community were surprised at the news and expressed their well-wishes to the owners of the diner on social media. One such patron, Thomas O’Brien, said he frequented the diner during a tough time in his life and that the friendly staff provided some much-needed comfort to him and his wife.
“My wife passed away in 2018 from Leukemia and throughout that entire process, we used to get day passes and sneak out of the hospital and Smitty’s was the perfect place to go – quiet, staff was friendly, was very clean, and we always had great service,” O’Brien said. “We had people that we knew there, [because] we went there so often.”
O’Brien added the diner has played an important role, not just in his life, but the community as a whole and has become a “trusted name” in the city.
“They’ve been in Airdrie for so long that you didn’t expect a business that established to go under so quickly,” he added. “I guess everything comes to an end, but it is definitely a shock."
Likewise, a former employee of the restaurant, Breanna Vandermeer, commented that the news came as a surprise, as the diner was “like a family” to her while she worked there throughout high school.
“Every time [I] went in there everybody knew who [I was], they were like ‘How’s it going? What are you doing now?’ because I had moved on and it was just a place where you could go and feel comfortable,” Vandermeer said. “April and Josh, the owners, were amazing.”
Vandermeer added she expects Airdronians to miss the Smitty’s.
“It was probably the best breakfast place that people always knew to go to, it was the only place [when] we didn’t have Denny’s, we didn’t have these other places for a long time,” she said.
According to Marilyne Aalhus, executive director of Airdrie Chamber of Commerce (ACOC), the effect of COVID-19 on local businesses has been a “mixed bag” throughout the last 14 months.
“Depending on the industry that you’re in, some have been [hit] extremely hard and are not able to make it through, and some are doing very well,” Aalhus said, adding the travel and tourism, fitness, and restaurant industries have been hit the hardest by government restrictions.
“I don’t know if people realize supporting local truly means shopping and spending money in your community and as much as we want to believe that everyone is doing that, there is still obviously the world of online shopping that is more prevalent than ever before,” she said.
Aalhus said she encourages Airdronians to spend their money within the city and to “rally behind one another” for the rest of the pandemic and beyond.
“We’re obviously a resilient community,” she said. “I have a lot of faith in business owners who have done everything to try to market their businesses and really do everything they can to support one another.”
With Alberta’s vaccination distribution starting to pick up steam, she said she feels cautiously optimistic about the future of the business community in Airdrie. That said, she acknowledged it could take businesses years to recover.
The chamber representative added that, while it may be too late for Airdrie’s Smitty’s, she urges those in the community to show their love and support to the restaurants in the city they want to maintain.
“I think people see those types of restaurants as long-lasting pillars in our community,” she said. “I wish our families could have rallied behind [Smitty’s] and really got out there.
“It’s telling that we need to continue to understand that this is the case with other locations too.”
Representatives of Smitty’s' corporate head office did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
About the Author: Carmen CundyCarmen Cundy joined the Airdrie Today team in March 2021.