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‘Don’t change the colours’: Iconic Winnipeg restaurant under new ownership, but same great dining experience expected to stay

An iconic Winnipeg steakhouse known for its warm nostalgic atmosphere, great food, inviting staff and red interior is under new ownership.

Rae and Jerry’s first appeared on the culinary scene in 1939, after its founder John Rae and Jerry Hemsworth met while working at a Salisbury House.

The first location opened downtown and by 1957 it moved to its location on Portage Avenue.

Steve Hrousalas took over ownership in 1975, buying the business from Rae and Jerry, who gave him some advice before handing over the keys.

“They told me that I could have any colour that I wanted, as long as it was red,” said Hrousalas.

The red interior that has stayed the same inside of Rae and Jerry’s. (Source: Danton Unger/CTV News Winnipeg. Uploaded Jan. 18, 2024)

He was just 30 years old when he took the reins. He said he has learned a lot through the years and it’s been a pleasure to work with so many great people.

“I’ve had a lot of great employees who worked with me. There’s a lot here right now. I’ve had a lot in the past and I’m very fortunate to be able to have all those people.”

He credits the staff as one of the main reasons why the restaurant has had so much success over the last 49 years, along with the food and a giant parking lot.

“(People) know when they come to Ray and Jerry’s, they’re going to have a parking spot and they know what they’re going to receive today, tomorrow, and last week. It’s always the same.”

Hrousalas said Rae and Jerry’s is the oldest steakhouse in Canada and when he finally decided to look at retirement, he wanted to make sure the restaurant stayed the same.

That’s where Adam Rodin came in, who said he has wanted to be in charge of the restaurant ever since he was a kid.

“When I was a child at Jets’ games, there’d always be this aroma of burgers and onions sort of drifting in front of me. And there’d be a man with a tinfoil burger filled with onions, who would sort of come in late, sit and watch the game and eat this burger,” said Rodin. “I remember turning to my mom and saying, ‘Who is that man? I want to be that man.’ And it was Steve.”

Rodin took the keys a couple of days ago and Hrousalas is sticking around for a bit to help with a smooth transition.

Adam Rodin standing with Steve Hrousalas inside Rae and Jerry’s. (Source: Scott Andersson/CTV News Winnipeg. Uploaded Jan 18, 2024)

Hrousalas gave Rodin similar advice to what he received all those years ago.

“He whispered in my ear, ‘Don’t change the colours,'” Rodin laughed.

For Rodin, it’s important to continue the tradition and success that the restaurant has had, and he doesn’t want to make any major changes.

“There’s a bit of a sense of, you know, that you’re the shepherd of this special thing now and (you) need to take care of it and treat it right and treat the people right and take care of the people that come here. I think it can continue on for many, many years.”

As for Hrousalas and his retirement plans, he said he and his wife will take some time to decide what to do next while spending time at their house in Florida. But he plans on being a returning customer to Rae and Jerry’s.

“I can hardly wait to come back in April, May,” said Hrousalas.

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