Mel's Tearoom may close if owners of Sackville landmark can't buy building

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Mel's Tearoom to stay put after owners buy building

Chances are anyone who's turned off Highway 2 into Sackville has made a stop at Mel's Tearoom at some point over the years.

It's one of the town's oldest businesses and has been at its current location on Bridge Street since 1945.

But the owners, Ken Mikalauskas and his wife, Lara Ross, are scrambling to continue that legacy. They bought the business — but not the building that houses it — five years ago.

And now the building may be sold to another party, an unidentified restaurant business, which wants to move in, according to a posting by Mikalauskas on the Mel's Tearoom Facebook page.

"We're currently in negotiations to buy the building, so we can stay here," he said Wednesday as the deadline for coming up with the money neared.

"If we don't ... we either have to decide ourselves to close or move somewhere else."

Mel's Tearoom has booths, a jukebox and a row of swivelling stools that line the counter. A neon sign jutting out from the building is the original, dating back to the 1950s.

​Mel's had been run by four generations of the Goodwin family, starting in 1919, when the original owner, Melbourne Goodwin, opened a fruit and ice cream parlour. 

Roger Goodwin, the owner of the building, sold Mel's Tearoom to Mikalauskas in 2012. 

CBC News reached out to the family, but they declined to comment on the pending sale.

Other business affected

Mikalauskas's plea on Facebook for help securing funding created a well of support for the business. But it also churned up speculation that caught a neighbouring business, Song's Chopsticks, in the crossfire.

Brian Kwon and his wife opened the Korean restaurant across the street from Mel's nearly two years ago when they moved to Sackville. Kwon said some people think he is the one who has been trying to buy the Mel's building and push out Mel's.

It's not true, but it hasn't stopped some people from making racially charged comments.

"My daughter was crying yesterday night, so I am sad too," Kwon said.

Kwon feels the rumours are affecting his business. He said Sackville has been a welcoming community to him and his family, and he hopes things go back to normal soon.

Mikalauskas isn't happy his ordeal is affecting his neighbours.

The owners of Song's "are good friends of ours," he said. "We go there all the time."

MIkalauskus said he's speaking to lawyers and the bank, hoping to get his name on the mortgage before it's too late. He said he's invested nearly five years of time and a good deal of money in the business.

He also feels a responsibility to keep the Mel's legacy alive.

"We own this place, but Mel's isn't really ours, it's everyone's. We're just maintaining it."