A Short History of Cocos and Gables Grand Bend
Like the rivalry between the Hatfields and the McCoys, the roots of the Coco’s/Gables story goes back to the 1800’s when the tourist trade was just beginning along Lake Huron.
Brenner House (now The Colonial and Gables in the Bend), was the first of the two establishments to be built; constructed in 1868 at the corner of Main Street and Highway 21. The Imperial Hotel, where you’ll now find Coco’s, was not built until 1905 but of the two hotels, it was the more luxurious with both hot and cold running water in all rooms. This was the era of the grand resort hotel — and by the turn of the century Grand Bend was the most popular resort town on the eastern shores.
As roads improved, more and more people came to summer in Grand Bend. Many families built cottages and vacation homes. The number of tourists at the two hotels declined and the competition for their dollars increased, putting in motion the rivalry between the two establishments that exists until today.
In 1943, Harold Klopp bought Brenner House and renamed it the Colonial Hotel. In the 1950’s, the Colonial Hotel added a pool and a lounge to compete with the Imperial Hotel’s prime location on “the strip”, just meters away from the beach.
Raising the stakes, the Imperial Hotel brought in live acts, including the young Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins, to pack its rooms and fill its dance floor.
In the late 1970’s, the Colonial added to its liquor capacity by purchasing a neighbouring bar called Red Gables (now Gables). With the Colonial quickly becoming the hotspot in Grand Bend, the Imperial tried to reinvent itself by changing its name to the Mainstreet Hotel and revamping its decor.
Despite the new look, the Mainstreet had difficulties packing in the same crowds as it had two decades earlier. The hotel was sold a few years later.
In 1987, Mickey and Nancy Rapaport purchased the Mainstreet and renamed it Coco’s, adding their own eclectic style and decor and turning the old building into a one-of-a-kind hotel, nightclub, restaurant and bar.
The Colonial continues to be operated by the Klopp family and is the longest family-run business in town. At night, Gables competes for the Grand Bend club goers with a DJ and live bands covering top 40 tunes and classic favourites.
Watch Episode 2 of GRAND BENDERS this Tuesday at 9 pm on bpm:tv when both Mickey (Coco’s) and Boomer (Gables) have their say. Repeats Saturday, May 19th at 7 pm et/pt