Canyon Inn Grows With The Community
Author: Nancy L. Mangini
Reprinted with permission from the Emerald Hills Review
In 1973, Tim Harrison invested $1,950 for first and last month's rent on a boarded-up 7-11 store on the corner Canyon Road and Oak Knoll. He refurbished the building, installed wooden booths he built himself, strapped on a fry-cook apron, and opened the Canyon Inn restaurant—a road house featuring fresh-cooked hamburgers, fries, and a friendly neighborhood atmosphere. More than 36 years later, Harrison still opens the doors and oversees the operation of the Canyon Inn every day, but leaves the cooking of the now-expanded menu to his capable staff.
"You can still get great burgers and fries, but we also offer pizza, barbeque, salads, Mexican food, and we're changing it all the time. I'm even looking into getting a milkshake machine," said Harrison.
Over the years, the evolution of neighborhood restaurant has mirrored the evolution of the neighborhood it serves. "When I first opened, there was nothing but rolling hills between here and the Elks Club at the top of the hill. People used to tell me I was crazy for locating so far away from downtown Redwood City," Harrison remembered. "But look at it now. The area is full of families who bring their soccer teams and birthday parties here, and I feel like everyone who comes in is a friend or neighbor. It's a pleasure to come to work."
Harrison recalls the building boom that took place in the '80s and '90s after sewers were installed in the unincorporated area and marvels at the changes it made in his customer base. "I went from worrying about Hells Angels coming in on Friday nights, to worrying that I had enough booster chairs and baby seats," said Harrison. "And I couldn't be happier about the change, especially now that I have small children of my own."
As Harrison's customer base changed and grew, so did his menu. "The key to staying in business after all these years, in addition to perseverance, is changing with your trade area. If you don't evolve, you get left behind," said Harrison, who made the final payment on the Canyon Inn's 30-year mortgage in December 2009, commemorating the event with a small sign on the side of the restaurant that reads "Harrison Building."
Harrison, who lives close enough to his business to walk to work, believes the small town atmosphere in Redwood City and Emerald Hills is the best possible place to raise a family. "My 5-year old daughter, Alicia, goes to kindergarten at Clifford School, my 3-year old son, Timmy, attends preschool at St. Matthias, and they both got the best preparation for school at Patty Bury's Daycare up on Vista."
But Tim Harrison is no stranger to community cheerleading. "In the late '70s and early '80s, before their first Super Bowl, not many people were cheering on the 49ers. So I went to their office on Nevada Street in Redwood City and told them that each time they won a game, everyone—players and staff—could eat free at my place the next week. I was doing it to rally some team spirit, and it started a 30-year relationship with the team that continues to this day, as you can see from the trophies and autographs on my restaurant walls. It also started my catering business, which is still going strong."
Continuing his record of community support, Harrison has volunteered to help sponsor the 3rd Annual Emerald Hills Community Picnic scheduled for September 2010. "I think it's great the way Emerald Hills is becoming a family-friendly area," said Harrison. "And you can count on me to help keep it going."