Wait’s News, which has served coffee and sandwiches on the corner of Baker and Ward Streets for the better part of a century, will close later this year.
Mari and Jim Plamondon, who have owned Wait’s for 10 years, were notified last week by their landlord that they have until Dec. 31 to shut down the 82-year-old diner.
The building Wait’s resides in at 499 Baker St. was purchased last year by Kate Falconer and Jay Van Zyll de Jong, who also own the business Loot next to Wait’s.
Falconer said the 81-year-old building requires extensive renovations. Tenants Kurama Sushi and Shoe La La will remain, but the space formerly occupied by Eclectic Circus will be emptied.
Falconer said she isn’t yet sure what will replace Wait’s, but that it will likely be a diner again. The decision to close the venerable business, Falconer said, was difficult.
“I respect that Wait’s has been there a really long time,” said Falconer. “It’s hard. It’s hard.”
Wait’s News was started by Walter Wilson Wait at 616 Baker St. in 1937 before relocating to its current location two years later.
The diner has had eight different sets of owners who Mari Plamondon said prioritized keeping its original identity intact.
“That familiar thing gives people comfort,” she said. “It’s like coming home from a fabulous trip but you can’t wait to sleep in your own bed and have a sandwich made with your own bread. We keep it simple.”
The Plamondons previously operated Nelson’s Greyhound depot for 29 years before purchasing Wait’s in 2009 from Fred and Mary Anne McClelland.
Wait’s had been a staple in their lives since the Plamondons moved to Nelson in 1980 — Mari said Jim has had his coffee there daily for the last 39 years — and it made sense for them to run it.
For many, Wait’s has been more than just a diner. The location has served as a welcoming space for Nelson’s street community, who have in turn found friends in the Plamondons.
“The people who have been neglected by society for so long are so grateful that they are welcome in our place, and that gratefulness touches my heart,” said Mari.
“Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity no matter what their stance in life is, and so many have not … To know we’re leaving that community, it’s heartbreaking. I’m more concerned about the community and my staff than I am about Jim and I.”
For two years, Wait’s has worked with Stepping Stones shelter to provide hundreds of free coffees, soups and muffins to those in need.
The store has also been inclusive in its hiring practises. Mari said early on she prioritized hiring staff who needed a break in life.
“I think if I have any purpose in life it’s to help make somebody else’s life better,” she said. “So if I can give somebody a job that will help them get on their feet, have some better self esteem and some skills, and I have the option and opportunity to do that, why wouldn’t I? Because that’s how we move community forward.”
The Plamondons don’t yet know when exactly Wait’s News will close. In the meantime, they’ll spend the diner’s last days, weeks or months taking care of regulars.
Mari said she’s always taken special pleasure in old patrons visiting Wait’s decades after sitting at the bar for grilled cheese sandwiches as children.
“They walk in and they are just so amazed,” she said. “It is just the way they remembered it.”