On May 25, the end of one of Ladysmith’s long-standing traditions ended when Renee Falonen hung up her apron and closed Renee’s Soup and Sandwich. A week earlier she had closed her other shop, Magic Moments, a gallery that offered local art and lessons that was also located in the same building. The new owners of the building are planning extensive renovations.
After a lifetime of feeding her community, Renee is looking forward to slowing down a bit and focussing on her art. Once her home studio in Chemainus is completed, she will return to offering art classes.
Renee opened her cafe in August 1990. Two years later she bought the building. After several tenants had come and gone, next door she decided to open Magic Moments.
Her family shares her good taste in food. When she was a teenager she recalls helping her parents at their Mt. Brenton Snack shop located near the old school. Her mom had a hand in her success as some of the popular menu items came from recipes handed down from her and her aunt. “I never found a better bread or cinnamon bun recipe,” says Renee.
As the neighbourhood changed through the years, there were still things you could count on at Renee’s: plate crushing giant cinnamon buns, thick sliced freshly baked bread, light creamy cheesecake and her signature dish, mile high lemon meringue pie. Renee took pride in making all her pie fillings from scratch. Her day would start at 5 am and end at 4 pm. “If I was busy in the back, and a new customer came in, the regulars would holler, or they’d just grab the coffee pot and serve them. That’s the kind of place this was.” No credit or debit, cash only, old-fashioned service.
For Renee, the hardest part of closing is saying goodbye. “I have the nicest customers around. Some have been coming for 28 years.” And, as they put it: “We are happy for you but not so much for us.”
All may not be lost — a cookbook is a possibility. If that happens it is bound to be popular with the folks who may have to learn to cook some of those recipes in order to get another meal at Renee’s.