Wait’s News is staying in business.
The 82-year-old diner will close its current location at the corner of Ward and Baker Streets on Sept. 8. The business will then relocate to its new home at 323 Nelson Ave. featuring a slightly changed name — Wait’s on Nelson.
Owner Mari Plamondon and employee Alyx Graham-Taylor will run the diner as partners, while Plamondon’s husband Jim steps into retirement.
Plamondon said Monday it was important to her that she brought the diner’s name along to the its new home, which doesn’t yet have an official opening date.
“To honour Walter Wait and his sense of community and what his business meant to the community. That’s what Jim and I have tried to do for the last 10 years,” said Plamondon. “Alyx and I feel strongly that that’s important to continue.”
The new home, which was made possible thanks to funding from Community Futures, became necessary after the Plamondons were given a Dec. 31 notice of eviction in March by their landlords, who plan extensive renovations to the 81-year-old building at 499 Baker St.
Graham-Taylor and Plamondon said there will be some aesthetic changes from the current look, which will be the third location for the diner and newsstand Walter Wait initially opened in 1937 at 616 Baker.
The sandwich bar will return, but Graham-Taylor said the diner will feature less of the clutter that has been part of its charm.
“There’s not going to be much on the walls but there’s going to be a lot of colour, there’s going to be a lot of pattern — but not too much.”
Plamondon said the pair tried to find a new location downtown but no spaces fit their needs. Wait’s is known locally for its contributions to the street community, and Plamondon admitted she is concerned the new location isn’t centrally located.
“I realize many people who will not make the trek over there for that,” she said. “I’m involved in Ascension Lutheran Church in Rosemont. We offer free meals once a month, we have shower and laundry facilities, and I get told all the time it’s just too far away. …
“But what can we do? It’s either not do anything or do what we can do over there.”
Graham-Taylor thinks the customers who love Wait’s will still join them on Nelson Avenue. She’s a good example of the loyalty the diner has earned among its regulars. Graham-Taylor had her first job there after leaving home at 15.
That initial stint didn’t go well — Graham-Taylor says she was the first employee Mari Plamondon ever fired.
“I didn’t set foot in the store for five years,” said Graham-Taylor, now 23. “But when I did she was so welcoming, she was forgiving, she [said], ‘You know what, you were not good then, you’re great now.’ From that we built a really close friendship. She’s more like family than she is like my boss.”
Now Graham-Taylor is a part-owner.
“She’s smart and she’s not afraid to work hard. She has a really good work ethic,” said Plamondon.
“When we moved to Nelson we had a little help with moving into Greyhound. I always think everybody deserves some kind of break in life and I can’t think of anybody else I’d rather be a business partner with.”