An East St. Paul resident wasn’t going to let a milestone pass quietly.
Wayne McIntosh, who owns the Half Moon Drive In at 6860 Henderson Hwy., threw a major bash to commemorate the eatery’s 75th anniversary on July 13 and 14.
McIntosh, 49, has owned the business for 25 years (the first 14 of which was with a partner), after working as a manager for two years before that. As a teenager growing up in Transcona, McIntosh worked at the drive-in’s second location in the neighbourhood, which is now the Whistle Pig at 102 Victoria Ave. E. After getting a business administration degree, he worked for a restaurant supply sales company with north Winnipeg, Lockport, and Selkirk as part of his turf, reconnected with the restaurant, and accepted the management job.
"I started young — no family connection, no family buy-in," said McIntosh. "It sounds kooky and goofy, but sometimes, that’s part of those success stories."
McIntosh has made major investments in the business, expanding the dining room from 90 seats to 170 four years ago.
"I’ve been able to hold onto sales later in the season because there is more inside seating," he said. "It is Winnipeg — if it’s not mosquitoes, it’s minus -30C."
There is also space for approximately 200 guests outdoors behind the restaurant, where diners can sit on picnic tables near the Red River and overlooking Lockport’s famous bridge and locks along Highway 44.
The menu has been fairly standard over the years, with a base of hot dogs, fries, soda, and ice cream, though McIntosh said he’s responded to customers’ changing preferences, bringing in items like no-sugar-added soft ice cream and Dole non-lactose soft serve. As well, he’s expanded on items, bringing in chili fries, poutine, and chicken sandwiches. Some new ideas haven’t worked though — a move to bring in salads about 15 years ago wasn’t well-received — but McIntosh has an explanation.
"It makes you realize it’s a destination drive, it’s a treat," he said, noting everything is cooked to order, and patrons can wait 20 to 25 minutes for their meal during busy times.
McIntosh considered the anniversary "a springboard" for future plans at the site — the restaurant introduced its own mascot for special events. He hopes to have an annual party, just like the anniversary party, every summer, while he hopes to have four or five other theme nights each summer.
McIntosh gave credit to founders Peter and Louie Kosowicz for opening up the restaurant, which was located further south on Henderson before moving into its current digs in 1983.
"I wouldn’t be here without them starting the business in 1938," he said. "I just happen to be the lucky guy, so to speak, that’s been a good operator to maintain and carry forward this business to be able to celebrate a milestone."
The anniversary party was set to welcome former Blue Bombers Stan Mikawos, Chris Walby and former Bomber and Canstar columnist Troy Westwood, as well as host Jon Ljungberg. As well, competitive eater ‘Furious Pete’ Peter Czerwinski was scheduled to attend and demonstrate his skills on July 14.