I tell everyone I know how good the milkshakes are at Lil’s Place.
In one day, they can go through four buckets of chocolate ice cream — and that’s one flavour. Made the old fashioned way, they’re served in a tall glass, along with the rest of your shake in a metal cup.
The place reminds me of home in a way — as Lubbock Texas was the home of Buddy Holly and a lot of places remained the diners they were in the 50s.
This diner was crafted with a lot of love. The running lights above the benches, the paper 57 Chevy’s dangling from the ceiling, the poodle skirts. A jukebox belts out the hits my parents loved — three for a quarter.
Hidden in that jukebox is an unexpected CD. L.J. Daylee’s CD — and you’ll have to find it (around 12 or 13) — but I know where the artist is.
She owns the place.
Lil is enjoying the restaurant business after a successful run as a country music singer/songwriter. She put out two CDs. She toured Europe. It was maddening schedule. In 2002, she performed more than 200 shows — this with a family and young kids in Edmonton.
It took three times for the Yukon to work its spell on Lil.
The first time was in October 2002: “I just fell in love with the scenery.” The culture was more laid back, too. “It’s not as rushed here.” And with her schedule, she’d done “rushed”.
She was here for a month: “The staff made us feel welcome. They spoiled us rotten.” They were invited over to the staff Thanksgiving dinner.
It was quiet and peaceful. “It had a vibe. Maybe if you are born and raised here, you might not feel that. Lot of kids I know are just dying to get outta town.”
Later in March, she found herself booked for a month at the 202 again.
Her second time in Whitehorse was “darn cold”. A snowstorm blew in on her birthday.
The third time had her back in June.
“That was it. I was hooked.” She was still married at the time, but she said that if she had the opportunity to move up here she would.
Divorced in 2004, she found that opportunity in 2005 for a fresh start.
While recording on-hold messages in Edmonton she saw an announcement online for an ad writer for CKRW. “I came up with my two dogs and everything I owned.”
She stayed for a year, met a guy and moved down to Edmonton. But she’d already been changed by the Yukon. “Edmonton was too fast, too much traffic, too many people, too many cars.” She looked for an opportunity to come back.
They saw The Pasta Palace was being sold online.
“We were happy up there,” she and her boyfriend remembered.
But they’d never run a restaurant.
It took her seven months to renovate the place. They laid the floors themselves, built and sewed the benches. All the tile work, the tabletops. The coke machine was her Mom’s. She opened Lil’s Place in December, 2007.
“The response was fabulous,” she says. “The first month was a gong show in here. We didn’t even turn the open sign on and people crammed in. I had no idea what I was doing. I’d never run a restaurant. We were so busy. People loved our place. But it was crazy. I kept asking anyone on the street, ‘Wanna buy a restaurant?’”
She had a lot of support from the whole community. People poked their heads in and asked how she was doing. Customers lined up for shakes. “People in this town really missed Dairy Queen and milkshakes.”
Well, that’s my reason for being there. I’m slurping a chocolate milkshake like I think it’s never gonna end. Frankie Valli’s on the jukebox with that falsetto chorus and it sounds like the Yukon is singing to Lil all over again — or maybe it’s singing to all of us.
“Why don’t you sta-a-ay just a little bit lo-onger…”
Jerome Stueart chose this city on purpose. Maybe you did, too. He’d like to hear from you. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.