The iconic sign for Mel’s Tea Room has been a staple of Sackville’s Bridge Street for more than 70 years — a staple soon to be gone.
The café first opened its doors in 1945 and was a beloved spot for locals, including Wendy Epworth and her husband Dave.
The couple, that’s now preparing to part ways with the place, bought Mel’s in 2018 after being regulars for years. It’s where the two met.
“We spent a lot of time here growing up, we met here every day after school,” Wendy Epworth said.
“It was a real hang out place for all the high school students, and it’s been a place for (Mount Allison University) students for generations, and we love Mel’s,” she said. “Mel’s is part of Sackville.”
But, the couple only had about a year of normalcy with their new business, as early into 2020 the pandemic hit.
Epworth said they’re now in debt. After purchasing the place for about $120,000, trying to keep it open during pandemic shutdowns lead them to another $160,000 in debt.
The couple was considering purchasing the entire building in February of 2022, but disaster struck.
“The kitchen roof began to leak badly, it always had leaked, but it leaked so badly that it collapsed the ceiling in the kitchen, which closed us completely,” Epworth said.
She said the building owner then sold to it to another buyer, who gave the couple a short timeline to find a buyer for their business. Time ran out at the end of September and without a buyer, the Epworths are now selling everything they can in an attempt to recoup some of the losses.
Sackville resident Heather Patterson was saddened by the news.
“I never came to Mel’s as a student, but I have so many memories of it since then,” Patterson said.
“It’s just a feature of the town, and everybody’s hearts are just broken.”
When the Epworth’s announced the closure last week on Facebook, community members rushed to share their memories of Mel’s.
“So very sad. My parents went to Mel’s on their first date in 1959. It will be missed,” commented one Facebook user.
“I spent many a day hanging out at Mel’s with friends as a teen – so many great memories of that time and so glad that Mel’s was part of my life,” wrote another.
The Epworths have until Tuesday to clear everything out from Mel’s Tea Room.
They’re not sure what the new owners will do with the space.