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Popular downtown Chilliwack coffee shop may survive, church looking for new location for shelter

Decades Coffee Club has been in its downtown Chilliwack location since 1998. Owner Ron Laser received an eviction notice and has to be out by June 3 to make way for a youth shelter. - Paul J. Henderson
Decades Coffee Club has been in its downtown Chilliwack location since 1998. Owner Ron Laser received an eviction notice and has to be out by June 3 to make way for a youth shelter.
— image credit: Paul J. Henderson

Decades Coffee Club may get to stay in its downtown location after all as City Life Church is withdrawing its application for a temporary use permit (TUP) to allow for homeless youth centre in the building.

A groundswell of support for the popular coffee shop emerged last week after it was learned Decades owner Ron Laser was told by his current landlord he had to be out by June 3 to make way for the Cyrus Centre.

A Cash Mob was scheduled for March 15, an online petition to save Decades was created, and hundreds of comments were received on the Times website and on Facebook.

A City Life press release issued Friday said that while the building at 45846 Wellington Ave. was deemed by a facility search team to be the "most logical choice" for the Cyrus Centre, the TUP will be withdrawn and the church will no longer buy the building.

"City Life Church will continue to actively engage in a search to find an alternate location," the release said. "We remain completely committed to seeing Cyrus Centre open its doors in our community."

In an interview with the Times on Friday, Cyrus Centre spokesperson Les Talvio said the building required very few renovations and, if Decades was out by June 3, he hoped to have the centre up and running by July 1.

But Monday, Talvio maintained that while this is a step backwards, he is not disappointed or discouraged by the turn of events.

"I'm not discouraged," he said. "I'm discouraged that the good news got missed out. One thing people are saying is that we need something like this. That's really encouraging.

"We want to be really respectful so we are not going to use up any existing commercial real estate downtown and that is important for us."

The story received considerable attention last week when it was reported that after 16 years in its current location, Decades and Laser was essentially being evicted by his landlord.

"In my personal opinion it's a huge loss for the community and downtown," Laser said last week. "Downtown constantly works hard to attract and keep business there and then for this to happen just seems wrong."

When asked Monday if the recent development meant Decades would be able to stay, Laser did not comment but said he would have an answer soon.

The Cyrus Centre Chilliwack will be based on the successful model for at-risk youth at its location in Abbotsford.

See the Times Thursday for a feature on the Cyrus Centre and the issue of homeless youth in Chilliwack.


March 6, 2014

Just when some thought there were more than enough churches taking up commercial storefronts downtown Chilliwack, the popular Decades Coffee Shop on Wellington Avenue has been evicted to make way for yet another.

"I am not leaving of my own free will," Decades owner Ron Laser told the Times Tuesday of the eviction notice he received Feb. 15.

"In my personal opinion it's a huge loss for the community and downtown. Downtown constantly works hard to attract and keep business there and then for this to happen just seems wrong."

Downtown Business Improvement Association (BIA) executive director Kyle Williams said he did not want to get involved in the issue but he agreed it was a loss.

"There is a concern for a loss of some commercial space downtown," he said Wednesday. "We feel for Ron. Ron has been really good for the BIA. It's disappointing."

Laser, who owns the popular coffee, lunch and meeting spot, said he was set to sign a new lease with his landlords, Natalie and Neal Te Brinke, when they told him he had to get out by June 3.

City Life Church (formerly Glad Tidings) has been involved and is providing funding to open a Chilliwack version of Abbotsford's Cyrus Centre, a church-based youth shelter.

The Times has been told the Te Brinkes are connected with Promontory Ministries and Main Street Church, around the corner from Decades. A fundraiser was held for "Cyrus Centre Chilliwack" at Main Street Church on Nov. 15 last year.

Abbotsford Cyrus Centre executive director Les Talvio told Star FM last fall there was definitely a need for such a facility in Chilliwack.

“Currently Chilliwack doesn’t have a youth shelter or 24-hour resources available for youth," he said. "Not sure how many youth we’ll see in relation to the numbers in Abbotsford but as far as providing, say a four-bed youth shelter, we would expect that it would be running at capacity just like the one in Abbotsford is.”

Talvio said in November he hoped the Chilliwack shelter could be operational by April if they could find a building.

In a letter distributed to neighbours last month, Talvio said the centre will benefit the neighbourhood because the youth targeted are already downtown with nowhere to go now.

"We are committed to working with our immediate neighbours, local agencies and the city to ensure that we are positively contributing to our community as we have in our Abbotsford location for the past 10 years," he said.

Just down Wellington, it was last July when some controversy over downtown churches emerged as Vern and Sue Tompke set up Vineyard Community Church, taking over the 5,500-square-foot ground floor space that was the Wellington Emporium. The Tompkes are treating the space as more of a community centre, featuring arts and cultural events, in addition to Sunday services.

Then there is Victory Church, which took over the old arts centre on College Street after the Chilliwack Cultural Centre was built on Corbould.

When Vineyard opened up there was some criticism of the church opening up around the corner from Victory and Promontory Ministries on Main Street.

Promontory's executive director John Vermeer said last summer it was possible the church would expand further into the now vacant Liquidation World building, something that has not yet happened.

As for Laser and Decades, he said he doesn't know what to do now since the unique location is hard to replicate anywhere else.

"Whether I'm able to relocate or not is still yet to be determined," he said. "It's a big deal. . . . That puts me in a position to have to kind of re-evaluate the whole business and consider how I might develop the concept differently."

At the end of Tuesday's Chilliwack city council meeting, Coun. Ken Popove made brief mention of his support for the Cyrus Centre's upcoming temporary use permit application to take over the space currently utilized by Decades.

"Because it's going to a temporary use permit, you are still keeping your mind open a crack?" Mayor Sharon Gaetz quipped, referring to the legislative requirement that city council not speak for or against applications they have yet to vote upon or even have presented to them.

Popove told the Times Wednesday he could not comment on the proposed use for the Decades building because he has to approach the temporary use permit with an open mind.

When asked how more churches and fewer commercial businesses fit into the city's downtown revitalization plans, Gaetz said she could not comment because her nephew, Todd Lueck, is a pastor at City Life involved in the building purchase for Cyrus.

When asked the same question, Williams at the BIA said "it's definitely not part of the plan," but added that there wasn't anything his organization can do to keep commercial spaces used for local businesses.

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