Skip to content

‘It was my home’ : Shauna Milner says goodbye to 49th Street Grill

Beloved restaurant closes after 25 years in operation

ATHABASCA — A month after a long-standing and well-loved local restaurant closed its doors for good, owner and operator Shauna Milner spoke out about the difficult decision she was faced with and looked back on fond memories from the last 25 years.

On Jan. 31, 49th Street Grill, situated on the corner of 49 Street and 49 Ave in Athabasca, announced patrons had one more chance to enjoy favourite menu items from the restaurant. In addition to their last-minute patronage, community members expressed sadness and regret for the loss of an Athabasca staple on social media, and to Milner herself. 

“I have beautiful, beautiful text messages and everything — oh, wonderful!” said Milner in a Feb. 21 interview. “How they’re going to miss 49th Street Grill and me and my staff, and everybody. It was beautiful.” 

Last November, Milner and the restaurant hit the milestone of 25 years in business. She recalled when she first arrived in Athabasca in 1998, selling novelty giftware, and inquired about restaurants for sale in local stores. She was pointed to a Greek-style kitchen for sale called Georgios. 

“I took over the restaurant on Nov. 28, 1998,” said Milner. “My ex-husband was in restaurant businesses before with his family and so on, and I was always in business with my parents. So I knew how businesses were run.” 

“A restaurant is, how do you want to be served?” she said. “You want your coffee to keep coming, you want good food … it’s just common sense basically, as long as you’ve got a good cook.” 

She credits her industry knowledge to growing up in her parent’s general store in Hythe, Alta. Watching her mother and father do everything from selling veterinary medicine to actively participating in organizations like the Elks of Canada and Canadian Royal Purple Society allowed her to learn both business and people. 

“I knew what it was to be community-oriented,” she said. “Coming from Edmonton, I was excited to get back into a small place where I could belong to a beautiful community.” 

Milner and her then-husband ran the show for the next five years, changing the menu and renaming the eatery to its last moniker, 49th Street Grill. After health concerns arose for Milner, they hired support staff for the kitchen. “But I always was there at the door, usually saying hello, seating people, going around, seeing how everybody was.”  

Over the years, Milner said she grew to consider the restaurant as more than a business. “All the beautiful people that came through my door, it was like they were coming into my living room,” she said. “When my parents would come from Edmonton, that’s where they would visit me … it was my home.” 

One aspect of the restaurant she takes pride in is her dedicated team. “If you have the right staff and you get the right food, it’s a winning combination.” She credits long-time staff member Lauri Mccullough and others for keeping the place up and running through periods Milner’s health issues. 

Another is the consistent quality of food served through the years. “I wanted everything to come out perfectly,” she said. “If you had souvlaki whether it was 25 years ago or last month, it tasted the same. We used pork tenderloin, not pork butt — we used the best, and our chicken breasts were the best chicken breasts you could get.” 

But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and businesses across the world were shut down or operating at reduced capacity, Milner was no exception to the economic impacts. “COVID did a big number,” she said. “I’d probably still be there if I didn’t owe the government, and my health was a little better. 

While she said the decision to close the restaurant was a hard one, the transition to her new life has also been challenging. Her health concerns were another factor that influenced her choice, but she said no longer being part of a central place of gathering in the community has been tough. 

“I was a people person always, always had lots of people around me, and now it’s just basically me, and it’s hard,” said Milner through tears. “I’m just very sad for having to close, you know it was my life, and my staff was my family, and I just miss everybody.” 

“It’s just very sad that you have to say goodbye to something that you put 25 years of work into, and you enjoyed it,” she said. “I know a lot of seniors that are in the same boat and you don’t even think your life would be like this at the end.” 

Milner, now 65, said she has plans to get back out and about in the community for coffee and socializing after she heals from her latest health issue. In the spring, she has plans to move to Edmonton to be closer to family and memories of her parents. 

“I’m actually going to hopefully get into the same place my mom and dad lived,” she said. “My life was here, my home’s here, my friends were here, and I had lots of support … and it’s just hard to realize that it’s time to move on, whether you wanted to or not.” 

She put out a call to all the patrons in the area like the ones who visited her restaurant for more than two decades, urging for renewed backing of small local businesses in light of recent closures in Boyle and Athabasca. 

“Please, please keep supporting them, as it is a hard time,” she said. “Just support your small community.”

Although she will miss the connections made through the years and sense of community in Athabasca, Milner is considering another way of leaving her stamp on the area, and those in it. 

“A lot of people are saying, ‘Make a recipe book,’ they want to buy the recipe book,” she said. “Who knows? I might get in my little apartment and start writing.” 

Lexi Freehill,

About the Author: Lexi Freehill

Read more


push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks