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New owners treasure their own teenage memories of Mel’s

The soda fountain counter with spinning stools is still a featured attraction at Mel’s Tearoom in downtown Sackville.
The soda fountain counter with spinning stools is still a featured attraction at Mel’s Tearoom in downtown Sackville. - Katie Tower

Dave and Wendy Epworth will continue to preserve Sackville diner’s old-fashioned atmosphere, charm

SACKVILLE, N.B. —

Mel’s Tearoom holds a lot of cherished memories for Dave and Wendy Epworth.

So it seems like serendipity that, 25 years after the two first met at the diner, the now-married couple has taken on the task of keeping Mel’s legacy alive.

“I actually met Wendy here, the first week that I was here,” says Dave, as he recalls one of his first memories of moving to Sackville at 16.

Dave Epworth has taken over ownership of Mel’s Tearoom along with his wife Wendy. The two have a lot of fond memories of what was once their afterschool hangout.  ANDREA CHASE CORMIER
Dave Epworth has taken over ownership of Mel’s Tearoom along with his wife Wendy. The two have a lot of fond memories of what was once their afterschool hangout. ANDREA CHASE CORMIER

He and Wendy soon became best friends and Mel’s served as their regular afterschool hangout spot.

“We were in here every single day, from the time school ended until it was time to go home at night, probably five days a week.”

Mel’s was a place where they and their friends could gather every afternoon, all crowding into one of the back booths, chatting about the important topics of the day or simply getting out their books to do homework until they ran out of money to buy a soda or an order of fries, and Roger – the owner at the time – would kick them out.

Dave and Wendy recently took over ownership of Mel’s and hope to carry on its rich history and tradition – and to keep the diner’s character and charm alive.

“A big part of Mel’s is the atmosphere,” says Dave.

But that doesn’t just mean the physical aesthetics, he says. The couple hopes to bring back the business to a time when Mel’s meant community, a place where people would go to hang out and share a milkshake and a plate of homemade fries.

“We want to try and make it the way it used to be.”

The ’50s style diner features a long soda fountain counter with spinning stools, old-style booths and a jukebox. Its roots actually date back to 1919, when Melbourne Goodwin, also known as Mel, opened Mel’s Tearoom as a fruit and ice cream parlour two doors down from its current location at 17 Bridge St. Mel’s was moved to its present site in 1945; this was when the iconic sign on the exterior of the building went up, the same neon sign that has been restored and still marks the location today. Mel’s Tearoom remained in the Goodwin family until 2012, when Melbourne’s grandson Roger Goodwin sold the business to husband-and-wife team Ken Mikalauskas and Lara Ross.

Dave praises the most recent owners for the work they did on the interior restorations, keeping the nostalgic feeling alive in the restaurant.

Mel’s Tearoom, which dates back to 1919 when it first started as an ice cream parlour, was moved to its present location at 17 Bridge Street in 1945 and has been there ever since, along with its iconic neon sign.
Mel’s Tearoom, which dates back to 1919 when it first started as an ice cream parlour, was moved to its present location at 17 Bridge Street in 1945 and has been there ever since, along with its iconic neon sign.

“They did an awesome job. Without their efforts, we wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing now. They had a good eye for the aesthetics of the place.”

Since taking over ownership just over four months ago, Dave says their own efforts have been on putting investment into new kitchen equipment to ensure greater efficiency. He is also working on an updated menu, keeping the items that have worked well in the past and adding a few new dishes as well.

He has future plans to add a couple larger tables to accommodate bigger groups and also hopes to start bringing in more breakfast crowds.

Dave has had a knack and a passion for cooking since his teen years, when he first starting cooking at Wendy’s Restaurant, then Marshlands Inn in Sackville. Never one to get stressed out by much, Dave says cooking was a “good fit for me. I really enjoyed it.”

When Wendy moved to Halifax to pursue a science degree at Dalhousie University – she is now a marine biologist – Dave found a job serving as a sous-chef at Your Father’s Moustache.

Although he had moved away from cooking over the past 15 years and has been working in the metal fabrication business, Dave says when the opportunity presented itself to buy Mel’s, he knew he couldn’t let it pass him by.

“Wendy always remembers me saying, ‘I’m gonna buy this place someday.”

Dave has always wanted to have his own restaurant and simply wants to be part of a great team running a great business, serving great food and having fun while doing it.

Mel’s, he says, has served as an iconic social meeting place for the community for generations. And he feels it’s now his responsibility to keep that tradition going – and hopes it will continue to feel like a safe haven for local youth as it did for him.

“I think that’s part of what we’re supposed to be doing here, that’s why we have this place now,” says Dave.

Mel’s Tearoom is on Instagram and Facebook, where you can check out their new "People of Mel’s" feature.

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