Morris (Mitch) Klimove, a local restaurateur, racehorse owner, boxing manager, and all-around mover and shaker, has died.
Klimove was born on September 27, 1923, in Edmonton, and grew up there during the Great Depression. He was the oldest son of Sam and Minnie Klimove, who had emigrated from Ukraine, and grew up on 95 Street. His parents had a grocery store on Jasper Avenue, in the Gibson Block building. He went to Alex Taylor School, where he met Arthur Hiller, a lifelong friend and Hollywood film director.
Klimove was a well-known member in Edmonton’s Jewish community. The Beth Israel Synagogue honoured him in 2015 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 through dining at Klimove’s restaurants.
Schloss said that “He was a real nice guy, friendly to everybody and had lots of tons of friends and acquaintances.”
Klimove was involved in a variety of restaurants in Edmonton, I including three iterations of Steak Lofts, first in 1954 on Jasper Avenue at 98 Street, then 99 Street, and finally Rice Howard Way. One of his Steak Lofts has also been voted Canada’s restaurant of the year.
In addition, he was a partner in the Beachcomber and Olivers restaurants, the latter of which was a favourite of Wayne Gretzky and several Oilers at the time. Locals and celebrities attracted to his restaurants, including Liberace, Nat King Cole, Bob Hope, and Jean Chrétien.
Klimove turned to one of his many hobbies, horse racing, after closing the doors to Steak Loft in 2007.
In the 1930s and 1940s, he began hanging around the racetracks, and in 1947, he bought his first horse on the spot from a trainer for $685. Mr. Kip was his best horse, and he won 35 races.
He owned hundreds of thoroughbred racehorses over the years.
Klimove was also a boxing promoter and manager in the past. The old Gem Theatre on Jasper Avenue and 97 Street, he told the Edmonton Journal in 2014, was next door to a second grocery store his parents owned. Klimove became friends with the owner of the boxing gym that was located below the theatre. It wasn’t long until he went into a partnership, promoting fights.
He managed professional boxers such as Al Ford, the world’s third-ranked lightweight and the one-time Canadian Boxing Federation Lightweight champion. He also managed Billy McGrandle, who won the Canadian featherweight title twice in the 1960s, and Georgie Dunn, who eventually became the Calgary Stampeders’ equipment manager.
His passion for sports extended beyond horses and boxers. Klimove was also a longtime supporter of the Elks and Oilers, and he served as president of the World Hockey Association’s Edmonton Oilers between 1974 to 1975.
Klimove was also 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 various land holdings, and was the first foreigner to get a casino license in Las Vegas for the Shenandoah.
Reflecting on his own life in 2014, Klimove said he was fulfilled.
He said that “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. I’ve seen it all.”
Klimove died at the age of 97 on July 5, 2021. He is survived by many nieces and nephews and a stepdaughter.