The first two phases of The Bunker's Industrial Eats project are close to being completed.

Access Credit Union recently made a $25,000 donation towards the full-scale BBQ and smokehouse restaurant, situated next to the youth ministry at 545 Industrial Drive in Winkler, in the space formerly occupied by Central Station and The Winkler Food Cupboard. 

Kevin Hildebrand, the non-profit's executive director, says donations like this are huge.

"The reality of it is, this is a $700,000 plus project. We've spent a lot of those years working in the food truck, putting money aside for the scenario that someday we'd be able to start the restaurant. And yeah, we had a good chunk of it set aside, and we've got some amazing donations from places like Access Credit Union and other businesses in the community to the point that we could get this project started and that it's underway. That's what keeps us going."

The purpose of the project is making a profit and then re-investing that profit in the lives of marginalized people in the community.

"People that need someone to walk with them, and be with them, give them a chance to move forward in life, and to believe in them, to build into them and train them, and just build into their self- esteem."

the renovations underway this Summer in the former Central Station space next to the BunkerThe renovations underway this Summer in the former Central Station space next to the Bunker

That is the essence of this restaurant said Hildebrand. 

"Yes, we want to be able to create great food and we're hoping that we can generate a profit so that those profits can be donated back into our Bunker ministry. But first and foremost, we want to be able to build into the marginalized people in this community, and get them to a better place in life, for their sake and for the community."

The Bunker took possession of the space in June 2022 after it was vacated by Central Station and The Food Cupboard. The goal is to complete the first two phases of renovation completed by mid-January.

"Right now, the big thing we're working on, is getting the commercial kitchen set up, get that ready, because that's a big part of having a restaurant. There's a lot of accessibility issues that we've had to address and deal with. You know what? It was a building that was never meant to be a restaurant. So those are some of the challenges that we have to work through and work with."

The final phase of renovations will involve working to complete the eating and serving area.

Another $280,000 is needed to finish the project in time for a 2024 opening.

"We've kind of set a deadline of the end of December, if we don't have at least close to the $280,000 that we need to complete the project, then we probably look at finishing what we've got mid-January, and then see how everything else unfolds from there," noted Hildebrand. "At some point, because if we don't have support, if we don't have the donors, if we don't have the money coming in, the unfortunate reality is we have to shut down the project until we get to the point where we've saved up enough money that we can keep going."

Hildebrand admits, yes, that would be an unfortunate outcome especially with the many people looking forward to the Industrial Eats opening so they have a place of employment.

"We're just letting them know, if we have to shut this down, it's not that it's done, it's not that it's finished and it's not that it's over," he stressed. "It's we have to wait, because we we can't just build and build and build and not pay the bills. That's just not a reality."

Donations to the Industrial Eats projects can be made on The Bunker website.

You can listen to our conversation with Kevin Hildebrand, below.

~With files from Chris Sumner~

man pile driving floor

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