Hicks on Biz: Family looms large in Stagewest's 75-year legacy BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2017
Family-owned-and-operated companies can be happy, healthy places moving nimbly around the feet of staid, mega-sized publicly-traded corporations.
For 75 years and three generations, the Pechet family’s Stagewest Hospitality has played and prospered in Alberta.
From hotels to restaurants, dinner theatres, casinos, land development, First Nation partnerships, travel agents and now a British Columbia winery, Stagewest has happily danced from hospitality opportunity to opportunity, buying at the bottom, selling at the top.
No Pechets, however, currently live in Edmonton. Stagewest Hospitality’s third-generation CEO and President Jason Pechet is based in Calgary. Second-generation Howard Pechet, now semi-retired, has lived in San Diego but done business in Alberta since 1989. He moved his family to that city after Stagewest Hospitality’s flagship Mayfield Inn was sold to Alberta lumber baron Al Owen.
Stagewest owns the Violino Gastronomia Italiana restaurant here, plus Mayfield Travel.
Just out of town is its Camrose Resort Hotel & Casino. The former Mayfield Inn’s Stage West Dinner Theatre legacy continues to this day as the Mayfield Dinner Theatre in the DoubleTree Hilton Hotel Edmonton West.
Family patriarch Eugene Pechet, an Edmontonian since moving from Lipton, Saskatchewan in 1928 until he died at 91 in 2008, just loved hotels. As a travelling salesman, he appreciated the then-rare private bathrooms of North Battleford’s Auditorium Hotel, so much so that he bought the hotel.
Eugene didn’t stop buying – 25 hotels in total, along the Alaska Highway and in Edmonton. “My grandfather’s formula was simple,” says Jason. “Be a community hub with 35 rooms (each with a bathroom) and have a 500-person hotel tavern.”
In Edmonton, Eugene owned the Highway Motor Inn, the Yale Hotel, The Regency and others. Eugene built what was then the largest hotel in Edmonton, the Edmonton Inn beside the City Airport.
Then he surprised all Edmonton by constructing the ultra-contemporary Mayfield Inn in 1974, way out in the west end surrounded by moose pasture.
It was a bold move that proved prescient. With the Stage West dinner theatre, the Dancin’ Shoes disco, high-quality restaurants and European-style buffets, Eugene’s son Howard and general manager Jean Kachkar made the Mayfield Inn the most cosmopolitan “community hub” in town.
If the price was right, Howard was always willing to sell. “Owen offered dad a bagful of cash to buy the Mayfield Inn,” says Jason. “It was too good a deal to pass up.”
Eugene didn’t stop at hotels. After Alberta’s 1981 economic collapse, thanks to an oil price crash and wealth-destroying federal energy policy – eastern-based banks wanted little to do with Alberta. So Eugene, the Allard family and other Edmonton businesspeople decided to start their own bank. The Bank of Alberta, now the Canadian Western Bank (CWB), was chartered in 1982.
When times were tight, Mayfield Hospitality went into management and partnerships – particularly in developing and running hotels and casinos for First Nation bands. Stagewest opened and for several years managed the River Rock Casino in Richmond, B.C.
Some businesses have long stayed within the Stagewest stable: Calgary’s Stage West Dinner Theatre since 1982; the Medicine Hat Lodge and Resort Casino since 1986. Wine is now being produced at Stagewest Hospitality’s latest venture, the Play Winery overlooking Skaha Lake in Pentiction. Jason’s brother David is director of operations at Play.
Today, as the third Pechet to be president and CEO of Mayfield Hospitality, Jason Pechet is looking for entertainment/hospitality opportunities in Alberta and Western Canada.
Jason thinks dinner theatre is due for a comeback. “In this digital world, there’s a niche for live theatre adapted to millennials and new audiences. We’re seeing a new generation at Calgary Stage West. There’s opportunity for commercial dinner theatre across Western Canada.”
In Edmonton? “Look,” says Jason, “Edmonton is our ancestral home. We’d love to have a bigger presence in the city, if the opportunity is there, the timing is right and the numbers work.”
“We’re eclectic,” says Jason of Stagewest. “We have to be careful – we don’t have the deep pockets of bigger corporations. But as long as we stick to our core businesses of hospitality and food-and-beverage, we should be fine.
“I have a five-year-old son – it would be something to have a fourth generation of Pechets in the family business.”