Memorable Manitobans: Oscar Bert Grubert (1929-2014)
Born at Winnipeg in 1929, one of four children of Polish immigrants George Gershon Grubert (1893-1975) and Adela Grubert (c1897-1975), brother of Harry Grubert, his early years were spent at River Hills where his father operated a general store until 1941. He returned to Winnipeg and attended school in the city’s North End. In 1954, he received a law degree from the Manitoba Law School.
Grubert developed an international food and beverage empire from the humble roots of a drive-in restaurant, Champs Auto Drive, started in 1957 in partnership with Bill Goldberg and Meyer Gilfix. The following year, he brought the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise to Manitoba, operating under the name of Champ’s Chicken. He went on to establish a succession of Winnipeg restaurants through the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, including Kamps, Grubee’s, Butcher Block, Mother Tucker’s Food Experience, Koko’s, Mama Trossi’s, The Garden Creperie, The Rec Room, Chances R, Thomas Button’s, G. Williker’s, T Bones, Carlton Street Fish Market, Strawberries, The Palomino Club, and Blue Jeans Caberet. At its height, his Champs Food Systems employed over 3,000 people in more than 50 restaurants around Canada and the USA. In 1970, he served as President of the Canadian Restaurant Association.
In the mid-1960s, Grubert dabbled in concert promotion, establishing Champion Productions that brought the Rolling Stones to Winnipeg in mid-July 1966. He brought professional fastball to Winnipeg, naming his team the Winnipeg Colonels, and served on the Board of the World Hockey Association’s Winnipeg Jets.
He was married twice, first in 1954 to Belle Kirschner and second in 1989 to Ruth Mozersky. Active in Winnipeg’s Jewish community, he was a founding member of the Manitoba Jewish Foundation.
He moved to Toronto, Ontario in 1989 and died there on 11 February 2014.
“Thank you Winnipeg teenagers,” Winnipeg Free Press, 18 July 1966, page 11.
Obituary [Adela Grubert], Winnipeg Free Press, 15 April 1975, page 31.
Obituary [George Gershon Grubert], Winnipeg Free Press, 12 September 1975, page 34.
“The restaurant king,” Winnipeg Free Press, 7 November 1984, page 45.
“The king of food,” Winnipeg Free Press, 27 February 2014, page B1.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 1 March 2014, page B12.
We thank Avrum Rosner and Michael Nesbitt for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 17 August 2020