By Bonnie Schiedel

The Hoito is said to be the oldest cooperatively owned and operated restaurant in Canada and on May 1, 2018, it celebrated its 100th birthday. To mark that milestone, here’s a look back at the Hoito’s history (although we still have some unanswered questions, like when did the scale at the entrance show up?)

Hoito

1918
1918

1918

Finnish bush workers who wanted a home base for inexpensive, hearty meals on their days off and during seasonal layoffs decided to open a co-op restaurant in the basement of the new Finnish Labour Temple at 314 Bay Street. The founding meeting was held on March 27, 1918. Fifty-nine people contributed $5 each in “comrade […]

1920s and 1930s
1920s and 1930s

1920s and 1930s

The Hoito, along with the upstairs neighbour the Temple, quickly became a centre for Finnish social, cultural and political life. The restaurant was a place to get the scoop about forestry jobs and contacts. Its first manager was A.T. (Tom) Hill, a former recruiter for the labour union organization Industrial Workers of the World (IWW […]

1940s–1980s
1940s–1980s

1940s–1980s

While politics and bush work changed, the restaurant continued going strong. Most restaurant goers purchased meal tickets or paid a flat all-you-can eat rate. Menus boasted that it was “Owned and Operated by the Boarders Themselves” and that there was “Plenty to Eat,” “Everything the Best,” and “Clean and Wholesome.” They also reminded patrons to […]

1990s–2000s
1990s–2000s

1990s–2000s

The word was out: visitors to Thunder Bay were urged to visit the Hoito for its old-school dining and vibe, and it was featured in the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail, and on the Food Network show You Gotta Eat Here! The fare remained generous and cheap: a 1991 dinner special for $6.50 […]

2010s–today
2010s–today

2010s–today

In 2011, the Finnish Labour Temple was recognized as a National Historic Site. In 2015, the Finlandia Association warned that the building faced financial struggles and expensive maintenance costs, leading to some community support and fundraising. To mark “Hoito 100,” the Hoito is planning events like 10 Decades of the Hoito in June (2018) with […]

References: 

  • thunderbay.ca/AssetFactory.aspx?did=11926, thehoito.ca/about/,  lakeheadfinns.com/en/the-politics/the-politics-long-read/, Under the Red Star (dir. Kelly Saxberg)
  • theglobeandmail.com/life/pancakes-at-the-hoito-where-thin-is-a-misnomer/article4250466/
  • thestar.com/life/travel/2010/07/30/a_superior_experience_in_thunder_bay.html, 1991 dinner: Breakfast at the Hoito and other Adventures in the Boreal Heartland by Charles Wilkins, page 4
  • theglobeandmail.com/news/national/finnish-community-in-thunder-bay-struggles-to-save-landmark-restaurant/article23531355/ 
  • https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/13/dining/finnish-pancakes-with-a-side-of-canada-labor-history-at-hoito.html#commentsContainer