A community staple is saying its final farewells as Gourmet Cup prepares to close shop this fall.
While her decision to retire comes with mixed emotions, after 25 years, owner Leslie Bromley said “it’s time.”
Bromley bought the business, in the lower level of the YK Centre, in 1996 after 10 years working as a Gourmet Cup employee for the previous owners.
With her two children in school and becoming more independent, Bromley was “just looking for something to do,” she said.
Looking back at the last quarter century, Bromley calls her former self naive in her early days as owner.
“I had no idea of the business side,” she said.
In two-and-a-half decades, Bromley has gotten to know community members as Gourmet Cup became the backdrop for Yellowknifers’ life milestones.
“Some customers have been around for 25 years and I’ve had staff that I’ve watched, quite honestly, learn to walk,” she said.
Bromley recalls one former customer who, as a child, loved the shop’s chili but wasn’t fond of the beans so he would pick them out. Now he runs his own farm.
Frankie Parker has worked with Bromley for the last 12 years, and as Gourmet Cup’s chef for the last eight.
“Leslie is the best boss I’ve ever had,” she said.
“She’s always giving things to people,” Parker said of Bromley. “Street folk come in here every day and she’s always making sure people get something to eat.”
Since the shop doesn’t serve day-old products, Parker describes Bromley storing any unsold food in the milk fridge to ensure no one leaves hungry, even if they can’t pay. At the end of the week, anything leftover goes to the shelter.
Parker said she’s pleased for Bromley and will look forward to starting her own catering company after she serves her final meal with Gourmet Cup. As a red-seal certified chef, the Royal family and the Tragically Hip are among those who have tasted Parker’s cooking, in addition to the Yellowknifers she feeds daily.
Bromley confirmed the rumours of the shop’s closure on June 17 on Facebook. As of that afternoon she said she hadn’t yet had the chance to check the comments but acknowledged it would be a busy night.
Though she didn’t specify which day, Gourmet Cup will close its doors at the end of September.
“I’m proud I’ve managed to keep it together this long,” she said of the past quarter century.
Asked if she planned to host a final hurrah in the cafe’s honour, Bromley said she’s “the type that would just quietly close up.”
While she’s looking forward to her retirement, Bromley said she’s sad to say goodbye to her customers, some of whom have continued to visit Gourmet Cup regularly over 25 years.
“To all my customers over the years, loyals, drop-ins and new people that we see everyday,” Bromley said, “a huge thank you.”