Elder brother Roy, born around 1916, started a trucking company while Bill was still in school. Bill served in World War II and returned to Tekoa after the war. Both brothers moved to Spokane in 1949 and took over the Old Corral Restaurant.
Many in their extended family worked at the businesses they ran. In 1954, they took over the Pine Shed Restaurant, then at 1727 N. Division St. “It was just a little old pine shed, is what it was,” Bill Wilks said. Over eight years, the small cafe was expanded several times for restaurant space and meeting rooms.
In 1964, the brothers moved the restaurant across Nora Avenue to a remodeled office building at 1801 N. Division, where it became a neighborhood landmark feeding generations of Spokane citizens after bowling leagues and on birthdays and family celebrations. Clubs and lodges held meetings there. Bill Wilks told The Spokesman-Review, “For years, we sold more booze than any other Class H liquor license place in the state.”
The brothers sold the bar for $1 million in 1977, and its popularity continued for decades. Many entertainers played there, including Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary, The Amazing Kreskin and Ernest Tubb. Family dinners of fried chicken and pot roast were favorites. “If we didn’t serve that (Yankee pot roast), the cook and I would be lynched,” a manager said in 1981.
Through the decades, bar owners had battled the state over card room gambling and the city over taxes. The Wilkses and others battled the unions over pay and benefits. In 1993, the name was changed to The Shed.
In 1996, owner Bob Racicot banned the new Hells Angels chapter in Spokane from wearing the motorcycle gang’s insignia in the restaurant, saying other customers didn’t feel safe. The bikers filed a discrimination lawsuit – and lost.
The last operator of the restaurant fell behind on lease payments and went out of business about three months before a fire gutted the empty building in September 2000. A drunken trespasser confessed to breaking in and setting the fire accidentally with a torch he made from old newspapers so he could see inside the dark interior. The shell was torn down and the land remains vacant. Both brothers died in 1991, Roy at age 75, Bill at 67.
Jesse TinsleyEds note: This story has been changed to reflect the fact that Bob Racicot, who formerly owned the Shed, did not also own Thaddeus T. Thudpuckers, a downtown restaurant which was owned by the Van Damme family. In a previous version of the story, Racicot was mistakenly named as an owner of Thudpuckers. We regret the error.
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