We were saddened today to hear of the passing of Leroy "Bus" Fuller, the founder of the Earls chain of restaurants and one of the most influential people not just in Vancouver's hospitality industry, but a man whose impact was felt across the country. Bus was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at our 2004 Restaurant Awards and I think it's fair to say that in every subsequent year we've strived to choose a recipient who could measure up to him.
In 2015 we included Bus and his sons Stan and Jeff on our Power 50 and this was our take:
In the beginning, Bus created Earls. That’s Leroy Earl “Bus” Fuller, an 86-year-old dynamo who got out of the oil business and into restaurants via a little spot in Sunburst, Montana, called The Green & White. He moved on to A&W franchises then opened the first Earls (in Edmonton) in 1982 and the second (on Marine Drive in North Vancouver) in 1983. Bus also created four sons. Two of them—Stan, and Jeff—now head Earls and JOEY, respectively. Those chains, along with Cactus Club and Browns Social House—which are both presided over by Earls alumni—are rapidly replicating their respective “premium casual” concepts throughout North America. Cactus Club just opened a spectacular complex at First Canadian Place, their first outpost in Toronto. Earls and JOEY already have multiple rooms there, in many other Canadian cities, and, increasingly, in U.S. markets as well. Earls is killing it in Miami, Boston, Chicago, and Washington; JOEY has four rooms in Seattle and just opened their first Los Angeles location (they also have the fast-growing Local Public Eatery brand). The Fuller chains are aggressive, well managed, and intensely competitive. They are privately held, but industry analysts suggest that their combined annual sales will soon approach a billion dollars.
So tonight we will raise a glass of Frescobaldi (or Rascal of the Vineyard if we can find it) to this legend—and you can bet it will be Earls-sized.