Local Edmonton bon vivant Mitch Klimove dies at 97

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Local restaurateur, racehorse owner, boxing manager and all around mover and shaker Morris (Mitch) Klimove has died.

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Klimove was born in Edmonton on Sept. 27, 1923, and was raised in the city during the Great Depression. He grew up on 95 Street and was the oldest son of Sam and Minnie Klimove, who had emigrated from Ukraine. His parents owned a grocery store located in the Gibson Block building on Jasper Avenue. He attended Alex Taylor school where he first met Hollywood film director Arthur Hiller, a lifelong friend.

Klimove was an active member of Edmonton’s Jewish community. In 2015, he was honoured by the Beth Israel Synagogue for his “exceptional contributions” to the congregation and “to the Edmonton Jewish community at large.”

Eric Schloss knew Klimove for years through the Jewish community and dining at restaurants Klimove owned.

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“He was a real nice guy, friendly to everybody and had lots of tons of friends and acquaintances,” Schloss said.

Klimove was involved in a number of restaurants in Edmonton, including three iterations of Steak Lofts, starting in 1954 on Jasper Avenue at 98 Street, then at 99 Street and finally on Rice Howard Way. One of his Steak Lofts was also once voted Canada’s restaurant of the year.

He also partnered in the Beachcomber and Olivers restaurants, the latter a favourite of Wayne Gretzky and several Oilers at the time. His restaurants attracted locals and celebrities from Liberace and Nat King Cole to Bob Hope and Jean Chrétien. 

When he closed the doors to Steak Loft in 2007, Klimove turned to one of his many hobbies — horse racing.

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He first began hanging around the racetracks in the 1930s and ’40s and bought his first horse on the spot from a trainer for $685 in 1947. The best horse he owned was named Mr. Kip, who won 35 races.

Over the years he owned hundreds of thoroughbred racehorses. 

Klimove was also once an active boxing manager and promoter. In 2014 he told the Edmonton Journal that next door to a second grocery store his parents owned was the old Gem Theatre on Jasper Avenue and 97 Street. Below the theatre was a boxing gym and Klimove became friends with the owner. It wasn’t long until he went into a partnership, promoting fights.

He managed professional boxers like Al Ford, who was once the third-ranked lightweight in the world and the one-time Canadian Boxing Federation Lightweight champion. He also managed Billy McGrandle, who would twice hold Canada’s featherweight title in the 1960s, and Georgie Dunn, who later became the equipment manager for the Calgary Stampeders.

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His love of sports didn’t end with horses and boxers. Klimove was also a longtime fan of the Elks and Oilers, and between 1974 and 1975, he was president of the Edmonton Oilers in the World Hockey Association.

Klimove was also the first foreigner to get a casino licence in Las Vegas for the Shenandoah, and was the third largest shareholder in Dr. Charles Allard’s Allarco, a public conglomerate that included Northwest Trust, Seaboard Life Insurance, Crosstown Motor City, ITV, International Jet Air and plenty of land holdings.

Reflecting on his own life in 2014, Klimove said he was fulfilled.

“I’ve had a wonderful life; a great life; a full life. I knew the right people and I’ve had a lot of fun. If I went tomorrow, I’d have no complaints,” he said. “I’ve seen it all.”

Klimove died on July 5, 2021 at the age of 97. He is survived by many nieces and nephews and a stepdaughter.

ajunker@postmedia.com

twitter.com/junkeranna

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