MEET YOUR HOSTS
Jeny & Phil Akitt – Owners
If you’ve already been to the Twin Butte Country General Store and Restaurant there is a good chance you have met the owners. Jeny, who’s parents, Larry and Jane resurrected the building in the late 1990’s, is often here to welcome customers and greet you with a smile. Her husband Phil (a.k.a. Smilin’ Phil) is the pit boss at the Twin Butte Smoke Shack. Both have a passion for food and entertaining. Together they have worked to create a place where people from all walks of life can come to enjoy great food, have fun, and always feel at home.
A Little Building with a BIG
For more than 90 years the building that serves as the Twin Butte Country General Store and Restaurant has been a landmark along highway 6, mid-way between Pincher Creek and Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta. Many changes have been made to the building area over the years, including the addition of the Twin Butte Smoke Shack in 2021.
Still, it has maintained a reputation as a special place to stop for locals and tourists alike.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
based on information provided by Claire Bowen
The Twin Butte Country General Store had its beginnings in the 1930’s with a building, two gas pumps and an office. Its sole purpose was selling bulk fuel to farmers. Within a few years, a warehouse was constructed in the rear of the building as an early distribution center for storage tanks, hand pumps and scales. And so, it began.
In the early 40’s, the business expanded to include rural mail delivery. Twice a week, mail was delivered east to west for 40 miles on a gravel route, bringing post to the surrounding communities and establishing Twin Butte as a central location for the area.
Oil companies began to arrive, bringing their drilling rigs and plenty of business. The little building expanded again, adding a bookkeeping office and the beginnings of a general store. Now customers could visit the small confectionary to purchase cigarettes, buy 5 cent chocolate bars and chewing gum or choose a pop from the brand-new cooler.
Growth continued in the form of a 40-foot garage, establishing a tire and auto accessory business. It also provided shelter for the new 75-passenger school bus that took growing numbers of children safely to school and home again.
This little building was steadily becoming a community hub. Its expansion was slow but sure, drawing customers of all ages. The addition of a take-out-service added to its popularity, selling eager patrons milk shakes, hot dogs and ice cream.
Discovery of a shallow well on the property might not have meant much to some. But it inspired the entrepreneurial spirit of the owners, who decided to expand once again, adding:
- two washrooms
- a store room
- a 12-stool lunch counter
- display islands
- wall shelves for groceries
Over the next 6 years, guest books were filled with comments from visitors that included everyone from neighboring communities to international travelers drawn here by Waterton Lakes National Park.
But expansion takes its toll, even on the most energetic entrepreneurs. After 30 years at the center of activity, the owners closed the doors on the Twin Butte Country General Store. The buildings sat more or less unoccupied for a while. People tried to revive the business, but the right owners and the right ideas just never seemed to happen at the same time.
In the 1980’s, the classic style of the building and its gorgeous natural landscape caught the attention of a Dutch film crew, who leased it to make a movie. They made a few changes, including:
- construction of a porch spanning the front of the building
- adding a Dutch windmill at the southwest corner of the garage
- extensive interior renovations
It looked for a while that this film would mark the revival of the Twin Butte Country General Store. Instead, it brought devastating damage to the building. According to local legend, a fire was started because of the film’s wrap-up party, ravaging the property. The final insult was the toppling of the Dutch windmill by our famous southwest winds.
Fast forward to 1995
Just when it looked as though these buildings would never be revived, along came a man with a dream. Six decades after its humble beginnings, the Twin Butte Country General Store was reborn under the attentive eye of Larry Davis and his wife Jane.
Larry, who grew up in Van Nuys, California developed a passion for Mexican food from his aunt, a native of Mexico who regularly cooked delicious traditional Mexican meals. After moving to Alberta, Larry’s flair for Mexican cuisine became a bit of a legend around these parts. Everyone who enjoyed one of his meals echoed the same sentiment: “Why not open a Mexican restaurant?”
This had always been Larry’s dream and the encouragement of friends and family nurtured its growth. He had a strong inkling that the public would love his cooking. But where he could make it a reality – that was another question. But only sort of.
Frequent trips to Grandma and Grandpa’s farm took the family past the deserted Twin Butte Country General Store many times. While the family mused about what might become of the old buildings, Larry’s dream began to take hold.
In 1995, it became a reality. A year of hard work, Larry’s carpentry skills, a great vision and lots of family effort brought the Twin Butte Country General Store back to life. The same in lots of ways, but in other ways, completely different.
In 1999 Jeny and her husband Phil took over the operations of the Twin Butte Country General Store and Restaurant, and while they have made many improvements to the business, they still hold true to Larry’s vision of a place where people could gather over a delicious meal, enjoy each other’s company, and feel like they were at home.