Maureen answers the ringing phone and a voice on the other end asks if her store is accepting donations.
She says that Ma and Pa’s Memory Lane is being evicted from its location on 6th Avenue, and they can’t take anything new.
The voice on the line says, “Oh. I was hoping the rumours weren’t true.”
But the rumours are true.
Maureen and husband Brad, who don’t like having their last name in the paper, have been given an eviction notice by the landowner that says they must be out by May 1, 2022. The letter states that the building’s electrical isn’t up to code, and can’t be brought up to code while the store’s thousands of items are in the way.
“The required upgrades unfortunately cannot be facilitated with the amount of stock and goods in this building,” the letter reads. “We will provide you an opportunity to re-lease it after completion at then-current market rates, competitive to similar locations and quality.”
Maureen says they already pay $2,000 a month and won’t be able to afford a significant increase. They are searching for a place to go.
“We can’t stay here,” she said.
Maureen and Brad took over Ma and Pa’s from the previous owner two years ago, and volunteer their time to run it. After paying for rent and utilities, excess revenue is put back into the community. Last year, that came in the form of a $12,000 donation to Fraser Canyon Hospital, and the funding of two $5,000 scholarships at Hope secondary school.
They also have a pantry that they keep stocked with food for Hope’s homeless.
“Since we’ve put a notice on the front door saying we can’t accept donations because we’re being evicted, the outcry from the public has been ridiculous,” Maureen says. “We give back everything we make, profit wise, and if we’re shut down a lot of people in this community who are economically challenged are going to suffer.
“We have people coming in here crying, saying ‘Where am I going to shop? Yours is the only place I can afford.”
As she says this, a customer comes to the till holding some Christmas tinsel, and Maureen refuses payment.
“I do this because God led me here and I do it because it’s His work,” she says after that customer leaves. “This store has nothing to do with my husband and I. Nothing. Everything has to do with what the community needs and what we provide for the community. We take nothing.”
The space Ma and Pa’s occupies now is 4,000 square feet, and Maureen is resigned to the idea she won’t find that much space anywhere in town. She has a couple leads that would currently be described as tenuous. Beyond that she’s hoping for a small Christmas miracle.
She’s already started prepping for a move, taking some of her inventory to thrift stores in Chilliwack.
If Maureen and Brad can’t find a landing spot, she says they’ll auction off as much of their stock as possible, and what’s left will go to a landfill.
“Although I think I would actually rent a container to have my store in,” she adds. “That’s how desperate I am and it’s just heartbreaking.”
Anyone who might be able to help is encouraged to phone 604-828-0996 or message Maureen/Brad through the Ma and Pa’s Memory Lane Facebook page at facebook.com/maandpasmemorylane.