A popular Brentwood Bay restaurant is getting a makeover and a new name in honour of the owners’ young granddaughter, who died suddenly a year ago.
The former Smitty’s closed its doors New Year’s Day and will re-open on Friday as Sassy’s Place, a tribute to Sapphira Ella Goodwin-Panzer, the spunky 10-year-old who loved her family’s cooking and interacting with the people who dined there.
“She would have loved this … she’s be doing backflips right now,” said a tearful Cory Porter, Sassy’s grandfather, who had been operating the eatery at the corner of West Saanich and Keating Cross roads as a Smitty’s for 30 years.
“We’re going to Sass it up in her memory,” said Porter. “She was such a great little girl, so full of life, and we thought, ‘What better way to bring new life into our restaurant?’ ”
Sassy was living in Mexico with her parents, Carley Panzer and Mark Goodwin, and older sister Isabella when she complained of having a headache last Jan. 10. Within a few hours, she died in hospital of hydrocephalus, commonly known as water on the brain, caused by an accumulation of fluid pressuring the brain and spinal cord.
The number of people who develop hydrocephalus or who are currently living with it is difficult to establish since there is no national registry or database of people with the condition, according to MedicineNet.com. However, experts estimate that hydrocephalus affects approximately one in every 500 children, and it can be fatal if not diagnosed early.
“She had never had a headache in her life, but she had one that Sunday afternoon … by the middle of the night she was gone,” said Carley, a long-time educator who had been teaching young school children in Mexico, including her two daughters. “You don’t cope with it. You have to learn to breathe again, live again.”
Carley said the family’s restaurant makeover and dedication to her daughter is helping the grieving process. And although the pain of Sassy’s passing is something that will never disappear, sharing her funloving legacy with the community will go a long way.
“She went to Brentwood Elementary and I used to work at the [Tsartlip] reserve school board and Sassy went to daycare on the reserve. There’s a tonne of people in the community who knew her. There are friends of Sassy’s coming in and asking if we’ll put up some pictures,” said Carley.
Jen Porter, Sassy’s aunt and the restaurant’s front manager, came up with the idea to rechristen the Smitty’s as Sassy’s Place. Family members, including owners Corey and Candy Porter, all agreed and started the big task of moving to the new format, guided by what they thought Sassy would have wished.
“Sassy was all about family, food and fun,” said Carley, who co-manages with her sister. That’s why you will find lots of Sassy’s favourite items such as cupcakes and “creamy dreamy waffles” on the menu as well as familiar favourites.
“We think people will love our new menu … Sassy had impeccable tastes. To be honest, she loved almost all food,” Carley said.
- Victoria Times Colonist