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Iconic West Pier Drive-In opens up for season to eager customers

Diner expects to go through 250 pounds of hamburger on opening day

Forget the first day of spring on the calendar back on March 19. For many locals, spring officially arrives when the West Pier Drive-In opens up for the season.

And that day was today.

"It's the end of winter. Spring is here!" cheered Joann who was one of the first customers at the popular eatery.

As a life-long resident of Sault Ste. Marie, she makes it a point to grab some food on opening day. Today she was with her grandson, Mason.

"We were waiting all year for this. They have the best burgers ever. I order the hamburger and fries. Last year we waited over an hour to get our food," Joann said.

Another local life-long resident was excited for this day to come.

"I love West Pier. I could not wait! I have been coming here since I was a kid. The people are great and the food is awesome," said Lesley.

Being a staple in Sault Ste. Marie for over five decades, it officially opened up for the season at 11 a.m. but had several orders already in by then. In fact, one person showed up at 9:30 a.m.

June TenEyck is one of several employees who were eager to open up.  

"It's a town gem. People get excited for this day all winter long. We get excited, too, but also nervous because opening day can be crazy," she said.

Jennifer TenEyck, who co-owns West Pier Drive-In with her son, Cody, says there is quite a bit of history behin the popular restaurant.

"I believe it was opened in 1958 by Gene Aube. He worked on a freighter and came up with the recipe for the regular sub also known as the original sub. He then sold it to Fornicola family. I was told that Mr. Aube had it again and then sold it to Gypsy and George Barbados. They changed the name to Barbados West Pier," she explained.

"When George passed away, shortly after that, Gypsy sold it to my in-laws Susie and Mike TenEyck and Susie’s sister, Patte Trainor. They created quite a legacy by making the burgers bigger but keeping the sub recipe the same, except they added a couple more options like the turkey sub and hot sub. Eventually they changed the name back to West Pier," TenEyck said.

In 2017 when they were ready to retire, they approached Jennifer and Cody to see if they wanted to carry on the tradition.

"I had been working there for 25 years and Cody for eight. Quite honestly, how could we not," TenEyck said.

TenEyck says the employees make a big difference in making the business successful.

"Currently, we have 10 employees, six are returning from last year. The first couple of weeks are sometimes a struggle as we are training our new team. But our veterans help us out by helping to train the newest members of our team," TenEyck said.

But those burgers and sandwiches. People come from all over to savor them.

"I think what makes us a staple is the size of our burgers and the fact that we get it from Neville’s, so it’s fresh every day. And, we try to be consistent. We want people to come back, have a bite of their favorite food, whether it’s an original sub, burger, BLT or hot sub, and that it tastes the same as the first time or last time they were there. We have so many supportive customers... locals and far-away supporters. Our customers will wait as much as three hours for their first taste of the season. We have customers that come from all over when they know we are opening! We love hearing that," TenEyck said.

TenEyck expects to go through around 250 pounds of hamburger today alone.

You can follow West Pier Drive-In on their Facebook page.