Steven Haley-Browning

Steven Haley-Browning

New kids on the old block

Heritage Bistro owners take local history to heart

The eyes of the Prospect Lake community are on Steven Haley-Browning and Graham Little. The owners of the Heritage Bistro on West Saanich Road are getting a lot of attention in rural Saanich for melding old with new in a building rich with history.

The restaurant, at the corner of West Saanich and Prospect Lake roads, is the latest tenant to occupy a 101-year-old building that started life as the Prospect Lake General Store in 1913.

“What’s it like being in such an old building? High hydro bills,” Haley-Browning says with a laugh. “I swear it’s haunted. There are days we left at night where the lights were off, and we came back the next morning and the lights were on. We checked the alarms and no one’s come in or out. It’s got its own little quirks, its own little stories.”

Despite Heritage Bistro being new to the community – it opened on Feb. 17 – once you step inside you’re treated to a walk down memory lane, with walls covered in historical photos of the building’s storied past.

“A lot of community members have come in and given us their pictures from when this was a postal outlet and a general store. There’s photos with the trolley cars in front of it, and people hitching their horses in front to come in,” says Haley-Browning, operations manager. “These things should be in a museum; it’s memorabilia since the time this place has been around and the different areas of business it has done. … You don’t get that (community connection) in a new building.”

For most of the 20th century, the building operated as a general store. That’s changed in the last decade, as ownership switched hands five times. Until 2008, it operated as Prospect Lake Market. For less than a year, in 2008, it was SOL (Sam Otter Links) Farms.  From 2008-2010 it was Ken’s Café at Prospect Lake, then Tia’s Heritage Café Co. from 2010 to late 2013.

The second floor of the two-storey building contains a living area, but it’s being used as office space right now.

Haley-Browning, former owner of Haley’s Hideaway in Sidney, says operating a restaurant in rural Saanich is a very different experience from being located on a busy, walkable street.

“There’s a learning curve. We’re on the way to The Butchart Gardens, at the entrance to Prospect Lake. Something like 10,000 cars go by here every day. As far as being out in the middle of nowhere, we are but we’re not,” he said. “This place, the building, is a destination.”

Heritage Bistro is at 5303 West Saanich Rd. For more info on the restaurant, visit


Storied past

On March 15, 1911, Saanich pioneer John Durrance signed a land transaction with Saanich to take ownership of the property at what became 5303 West Saanich Rd. He paid $200 for the land.

Rancher Samuel McCullough, who moved from Ireland with his wife Susanna in the early 1890s, built the Prospect Lake General Store around 1913.

Their daughter Sarah and her husband, John (Jock) Nisbet Findlay, a roofer, ran the store, which included the local post office.

Between 1946 and 1963, Jack and Evelyn Durrance owned and operated the store. Jack was the son of John Durrance.

The building was added to the Saanich Heritage Register around 1991.

– Courtesy of Saanich Heritage Register

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Environment Canada has issued a wind warning for Greater Victoria, with winds expected to get up to 70 km/h Friday morning. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Wind warning promises blustery Friday for Greater Victoria

Winds up to 70 km/h expected Friday morning

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 from Vancouver to Victoria Feb. 28 were exposed to a case of COVID-19. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
COVID-19 exposure found on flight from Vancouver to Victoria

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 Feb. 28 affected

Low interest rates have acted as a catalyst for the pandemic real estate market. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy)
Real estate sales surging across Greater Victoria but risks lie ahead

Single family home prices jump nine per cent over past year while condo values remain stable

Crews deal with a rock slide on the Malahat section of Highway 1 in 2017. (Black Press Media file photo)
Rock work closes Highway 1 in Langford for spurts

Friday closures could delay drivers up to 20 minutes

Crews disassemble the iconic red and white KFC bucket from a sign on Goldstream Avenue. (Photo courtesy of Mark Schoor)
Iconic KFC bucket removed from Goldstream Avenue

Popular fast-food chain closes Langford location

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

The intersection of Melrose Street and Third Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Suspect in custody after two pedestrians struck in Port Alberni hit and run

RCMP asking for video footage, credit witnesses for quick arrest

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

Comox Valley RCMP had access to 20 Street blocked off between Cousins and Choquette avenues as they conducted a raid of a house on the block. Photo by Terry Farrell
Comox Valley RCMP raid Courtenay problem house, several arrests made

Comox Valley RCMP conducted a raid of a problem house on 20th… Continue reading

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

A Cowichan Valley mom is wondering why masks haven’t been mandated for elementary schools. (Metro Creative photo)
B.C. mom frustrated by lack of mask mandate for elementary students

“Do we want to wait until we end up like Fraser Health?”

Most Read