Change coming to Royal Oak as Crumsby’s closes

With end of RON Talks and Crumsby’s, another Royal Oak era ends

After five years of providing treats to the community, the Crumsby’s Cupcake Cafe in Royal Oak is closed.

The cafe opened in the historical Royal Oak Schoolhouse in February 2012 by the same owners of the popular Crumsby’s Cafe in Oak Bay. A couple years in, it was sold to foreign owners in China. According to the flagship Oak Bay Crumsby’s, those owners have closed the shop after health complications kept them from immigrating to Canada.

“We bid farewell to Crumsby’s at the Schoolhouse, which the new owners finally closed this week,” said a Facebook post for Crumsby’s Cafe in Oak Bay. “Health problems ultimately kept them from immigrating to Canada and we will miss providing them with muffins and cuppies!…”

See: Old School Historians run Royal Oak school project

It was clear that foot traffic to the Royal Oak Crumsby’s was a fraction of that enjoyed in Oak Bay.

In 2011 the 130-year-old schoolhouse was repaired and made available as a community amenity by Mike Geric Construction, part of a major development on the block. It was also a built-in deal that the building is available to the community. A spokesperson from Geric Construction said they’d have news about the school in the near future.

Incidentally, Crumsby’s RON Talks event also ended last month, closing a four-year run.

RON Talks, or the Royal Oak Neighbourhood Talks, was run by Saanich councillor and CRD arts chair Colin Plant, who’s also a Claremont theatre teacher. When he started in January 2014, nine months before joining council, Plant brought in more than 40 people, standing room only on a Tuesday night.

Plant was inspired by Royal Oak couple Greg Holloway and Kathleen Wilkins who started the Royal Oak Neighbours Club, or RONs Club, in 2012 to build a sense of community.

“RON Talks wasn’t new, Holloway [and Wilkins] had been doing it but it was never a formal date and my attitude was, ‘let’s make it formal every month,’” Plant said.

“It was a great venue. The first RON Talks [event] was standing room only, with more than 40 people, but we never regained that magic,” Plant said.

There was often 12 to 20 people, but the attendance was clearly trending downward, he added.

“Maybe I should have had more postering inside the building, and a sandwich board outside,” Plant said.

University of Victoria political science professor Janni Aragon was the last of 85 speakers when she addressed the final December RON Talks with another speaker, a student from the Claremont Institute for Global Solutions program who recently toured Canada by rail. They presented to just five people.

What’s interesting to Plant is what comes next.

“If this business model didn’t work then what should be there?” he asked. “It shouldn’t be something [overly] commercial. I feel that doesn’t fit, it should appeal to the neighbourhood.”

RON Times

In his look back at RON Talks, Plant had a few anecdotes that stood out, such as the time staff forgot the event was happening and Plant showed up with a room full of people (twice).

“Luckily we were able to move into Saanich Commonwealth for an impromptu meeting,” Plant laughed.

In two more instances Plant was left with the keys, as the manager, a university student, went to class during the talk.

“I shut the business down, she assured me [it was OK] to go home.”

Though RON Talks has come to an end, it wasn’t without an effort by Plant to have someone take it over. It was offered to several local community members but in the end no one stepped forward.

“I met a lot of interesting people. I’d like to think the people who came learned something and made a neat connection with their neighbourhood,” Plant said.

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