Velda Court’s home town of Candle Lake is growing and diversifying as a tourist mecca by leaps and bounds. As with any tourist destination, it is the unique ideas people remember and talk about long after their vacation has ended. Velda, along with her spouse, Mick Levitsky, have created a business that began as a hotdog cart, which was purchased on impulse one afternoon while Velda was at work in the medical field. She says her parents, Frank and Anne Marchand, have roots at Candle Lake that go back to 1932 when her maternal grandparents homesteaded, running the trading post and the sawmill. So, having a unique business is not new to Velda’s family. One could say it runs in her DNA.
One fall day, Mick was on his lunch break and sent Velda a picture of a hotdog cart that was for sale. He suggested this was her new summer job and her response was, “Not a chance!” But by 3:00pm “my mind was racing and by 6:00pm we were writing a cheque for a hotdog cart and no clue on what we were doing, where we were going to park it and no idea how to run it.” Thus began their foray into owning and operating their small business. It could be said a lot of Velda and Mick’s success has been achieved through happen stance.
When they started their business, they had the idea of taking the hot dog cart onto the ice to sell food while people were ice fishing. They phoned SERM to see what they’d have to do to gain permission to do it. SERM had never had a request like this and they returned Velda’s call to say as long as there was no garbage left on the ice, they could go ahead and sell on the ice. Velda then asked about selling in the summer, with the plan of putting the hotdog cart on a pontoon boat. That request was also approved.
The name of the restaurant came just as surprisingly. When the health inspector was finished reviewing the restaurant the question everyone wanted to know is, “What’s the name of the restaurant?” Velda barely had time to consider it before “Gator’s Grub” popped out of her mouth. Gator has been her nick-name for a number of years, stemming from her “insta-gator” personality.
You will find the usual fare on the menu such as soda, hard ice cream, French fries, hotdogs, bratwurst and smokies. However, you will also find some special items that have people returning to sample over and over again. One of these items is the UKE dog, which consists of a smokie with perogy, sour cream, bacon and onion, a Texas dog that is a dressed sausage of your choice, pulled pork, coleslaw, chipotle corn, and a dill pickle or the Hawaiian dog bratwurst with homemade pineapple mango salsa and teriyaki sauce, all served on a bun. There is a convenience to eating handheld food with affordable prices and quick cleanup that any parent appreciates. Velda notes, “I think what parents like the most, besides it being affordable and they don’t have to leave the beach to feed the family, is they can give their kids bubble gum ice cream in the water and when they’re done they just dip them in the lake to wash them off!”
For Velda, the payoff after a long day of work is remembering the smiles on the faces of her customers and knowing that she is making a connection with her clientele. She says she was recently in Mexico and someone saw her, declaring delightedly to all who would listen, “its the hotdog lady from Candle Lake” and that is a very gratifying feeling.
Even though gator is not on the menu (yet!), a lot of other delicious food is. If you would like to visit Gator’s Grub this summer, you can like them on Facebook (they post their location on the lake each day) or you can phone them, and they will return your call. Velda advises, “The easiest way to find us is to “like” our Facebook page Gator’s Grub food truck, hotdog cart and Pontoon boat which is updated daily with our time we are out, location and specials. If you do not have Facebook, you can call us at 306-961-0223.” Visit Velda and Mick this summer for a fun and unique dining experience you won’t soon forget!