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Founded by Brothers Leo and Michael Hockenhull, the Prospector opened doors in April of 1985, serving lunch and dinner to hungry Thunder Bay patrons. The Prospector quickly became a lunch time favorite of many downtown workers and a dinnertime must for families enjoying the prosperous eighties.
In 1989, the Prospector moved to the Marshal Wells building at 37 S. Cumberland St. one block south of the original location. The move was to accommodate the growing popularity of the Prospector, giving the restaurant double the floor space and twice the seating capacity. Thunder Bay suffered considerable job decline as area industry took many big hits during the 90’s. Grain shipping through Thunder Bay port was cut considerably, but it was the forestry industry that was hit the hardest. Several area mills closed, and the ones that remained opened cut a great deal of their workforce. During these hard economic times, The Prospector moved to Keskus mall in a feeble attempt to regain the lost lunch crowd amongst mall patrons. The mall was eventually torn down to make way for the Thunder Bay Charity Casino. In 1998, The Prospector reopened in the original bank location on 27 S. Cumberland St. Word spread through Thunder Bay like wildfire that the city’s favorite restaurant had reopened in the city’s favorite spot. Soon the quality served up at the restaurant during the 80’s had returned. Later that same year, the Hockenhull family brought in the leadership of Thunder Bay businesswoman Joyce Ilkka. Through her knowledge, kindness, genuine sincerity and dedication for patrons, Joyce has gained legendary status as general manager of the Prospector Steak House. Though it’s widely known that Joyce would make the perfect mayoral candidate, she remains committed to her customers and staff at the Prospector Steak House. Because of people like Joyce, and other long time employees, the Prospector has enjoyed huge success. Long line ups and severe wait times resulted, and dining space and holding areas were expanded to address hungry patrons. In 2002, The Hockenhull Brothers and Sons incurred a great loss as Prospector co-founder Michael “The Bear” Hockenhull passed away, leaving things up to Leo, his sons John and Tony and Joyce. Mike is greatly missed by friends, family and customers alike for his friendly smile, attitude, love for others and his strong Christian faith.