Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/7/2012 (3301 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The neighbourhood is a better place than it once was and it's time to be practical and go back to basics.
These are some of the reasons why much of what was created by the late pastor Harry Lehotsky in the West End is being put up for sale. The board of New Life Ministries, which includes his widow, Virginia Lehotsky, recently put up for sale the Ellice Cafe and Theatre at Ellice Avenue and Sherbrook Street. The ministry is looking for someone else to operate half of the 100 low-income housing units it maintains.
"Basically, it was financial," Lehotsky said Thursday of the café. "We just weren't able to cover our food costs and labour costs. We just couldn't do it."
Interim pastor Curtis Halbesma said no one is at risk of losing their suite -- they won't be turned into condos -- and the café won't be sold outright to the highest bidder. The plan is to sell the café to an organization that shares Harry Lehotsky's vision. For example, the business could be turned into a job-training centre.
The church will keep the housing units close to the church at 514 Maryland St.
"I think if Harry had been around, he would have looked at the state of the café and said, 'We should have changed things years ago,' " Halbesma said, adding the West End isn't the same place as when Lehotsky started his ministry in 1983.
"Ten or 15 years ago, there weren't a lot of small restaurants in the area. There are a lot now. Now, it's the place to be.
"New Life is looking at the current West End and asking how we can help. With the money we can get from the sales, that money will be reinvested in the community."
Virginia Lehotsky said the café's food sales have slipped this year, with the 30-member church having to subsidize it. Lehotsky opened it in 2005 as a safe place where people could buy an affordable meal and mingle. It doesn't serve alcohol.
Lehotsky died of cancer a year later. The church has carried on his vision, but only to a point.
"As a church, it's better to put your dollars towards something that's more ministry than just food," Lehotsky said. "If he were still here, I'm sure the café would still be flying, but Harry's not here. We have to deal with the realities.
"Harry would have been the first one to say that if we started it, we can end it when it's not viable or helping anybody anymore. You move on to the next thing."
Bill Ehlers, a church board member, said it was a tough decision but after Lehotsky died, donations to the church dried up.
"We just found the model didn't work, that's the bottom line," he said.
-- with files from Gordon Sinclair Jr.