Long time local residents Bob Fitzsimmons and Jim Young built the Happy Landing Diner & Service Station in 1938 because at the time, legend has it you could get from Toronto to South River on one tank of gas and then it was time to fill up again.
Prior to the construction of the by-pass, Highway 11 was two lanes and ran right through Sundridge and South River, making the Landing a familiar truck stop and then landmark along the Highway for more than 50 years.
Change of hands
In 1966, South River natives Les and Gail Maeck came home for Victoria Day weekend and stopped by the Landing on their arrival. The place was packed and Les stayed to help his friend Jim serve the customers all night.
Shortly after that, Jim and Bob offered to sell the business to Les, and after approaching his best friend Chuck Wood to see if he would like to join him, they decided to go for it. The deal was written up on a serviette with a handshake and by July 1, they opened.
Build in on service
Their motto was to “build in on service” and it was a very successful business, going through no less than 24 dozen eggs each day between 7 and 9 a.m. Breakfast was 65 cents for bacon, eggs, toast, home fries and coffee.
On Labour Day weekend in 1977, the building succumbed to a fire. The owners suspected arson but it was never confirmed. They were back up and running four months later. 10 years later, on New Years Eve 1987 they sold the business, at the time employing 34 full and part time staff. The community landmark eventually closed up shop for good and was torn down.
While the lot sat empty for a number of years, it is now home to South River Brewing Co., who pay homage to the location’s roots with their Happy Landing Ale, an English golden ale orange rind and oatmeal combined to create a balanced well-crafted beer.
Did you know…
- In the summer on Sunday nights when vistors returned home towards Toronto, the traffic would be backed up all the way to the Happy Landing waiting on the light to turn green in Gravenhurst over 100 km away.
- The lumber used to build the original Happy Landing building was from the Standard Chemical Plant.
- Les and Gail would travel to Hawaii and Scotland, where people would ask where they were from. They always said North Bay because it was the closest city, to which they would often be asked if it was close to the Happy Landing.
- The day of the fire, a young waitress ran out of the building with the cash register drawer but left her purse with her pay cheque in it.