Future of iconic 75-year-old Cape Breton chip wagon in limbo after owner dies
GLACE BAY, N.S. -- The street corner where the iconic Glace Bay, N.S. chip wagon has sat for decades is empty, and it will remain that way for the foreseeable future after the man who kept it running for so many years died Oct. 10 following a battle with cancer. He was 67.
"Mike's passion for the wagon goes beyond any words. Next to his family, that was his life," said Brian Shaw, a family friend of late chip truck owner Mike Yorke and his wife Marielle.
Shaw said he was always amazed at the dedication Yorke had not only to serving the perfect box of fries but to the upkeep of his 1942 vintage truck, which still has most of its original parts and features.
It all made for a throwback experience that was a must for locals and people visiting back home.
"They came to the chip wagon with their sleeping bags still in their vehicle because they wanted a box of fries," Shaw said. "That was the first thing they wanted when they got back to Cape Breton. That's how iconic it is."
Glace Bay-Dominion MLA John White said when he heard of Yorke's passing, he knew it might mean the loss of two community institutions: the wagon itself, and the man he describes as its beating heart.
"When you go to Boston, you have to go to Cheers, for example," White said.
"When you come to our area, it's the Miner's Museum, it's Dominion Beach, it's Savoy Theatre and it's the chip wagon."
White said for Yorke, the chip wagon was a labour of love.
"I don't think the chip wagon was a business for Mike," White said. "I think it was a social event. Whenever you came down here and order your chips, you had to wait around a bit while they were cooked up. If he was cooking them, he was reaching out talking to you. If he wasn't, he was on the outside of the wagon talking to people."
The chip wagon came to Glace Bay from Montreal in 1946. Many who were customers as kids have returned over the years with their own children and grandchildren.
Now, some are now wondering if this may be the end of the line for this 'mom and pop' style business.
It's like trying to live without a heart," Shaw said.
"Mike was the heart of that chip wagon and the soul. So I really don't see anybody else being able to do what he did."
"I hope they can pick it up and keep it going, I really hope they do," White added.
"I'd be here to help them with whatever they could get going. I'd love to see them keep it in the family and keep it going."