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The Chronicles : One | Two | Three | Four | Five

Chronicle Five


Jim, Bryan, Rafe, and Gerry were the second to last car off the ferry on the seven p.m. Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo sailing. Gerry, behind the wheel of the minivan, turned south towards Crofton.

"What time did you say that last sailing to Salt Spring was?" asked Jim.

"I don't remember," replied Gerry. "Here," he reached up to the sunvisor for the ferry schedule he had tucked into a flap, and tossed it into the back seat. "Look it up, someone. We don't want to miss it, whenever it is!"

"Keep your eyes on the road!"

"I'm doing, I'm doing...things are cool!" Gerry pushed a CD into the player, and the smoothness of a Blues singer filled the van.

"Been down so long, baby...", they all sang along in unison.

"Hey, here it is...the last sailing is at 10 p.m. Will we make it?"

"By the skin of our teeth, Jimmy, by the skin of our teeth." Gerry picked up speed as they left the highway construction, on the outskirts of Nanaimo, behind them.

"What time is our appointment with the realtor to see the restaurant?"

"Tomorrow morning, six thirty, sharp. The owner doesn't want the staff to know it's for sale, so we have to look at things early."

"Six thirty!" There was a mutual groan from the back seat. "I need my beauty sleep", whined Jim.

"Even if you slept as long as Rip Van Winkle, it wouldn't do you any good, Jimmy. Once an ugly dog, always an ugly dog!"

The laughter carried them through Ladysmith, and onto the turn-off to the lower road to Crofton.

"Only another ten minutes or so, and we'll be at the terminal. Wow, this new Island highway really cuts off a lot of time!"

There were only two other cars in the ferry line, as they wound down the hill out of Crofton to the Salt Spring ferry dock. The little ferry that plied between Vesuvius on Salt Spring, and Crofton on Vancouver Island, was in mid-channel, heading their way. It was only a 20 minute trip; the scattered lights of houses in Vesuvius itself, a tiny community of renovated summer homes, and an adjoining, wider spread of star-like clusters of lights in the new Channel Ridge subdivision, welcomed them across the narrow strip of Stuart Channel.

It had been Rafe's idea to look for a new restaurant location, when their lease had come up for renewal in Vancouver. The landlord hadn't wanted to renew, a better offer, in a redevelopment of that whole city block, having come his way.

Rafe had grown up on Salt Spring Island, and he had talked them all into seeing his vision of a new Sausalito, with themselves as one of the main architects of this new style for the Island. Rafe was good at getting others to share his enthusiasms, thought Gerry, pulling onto the ferry and cutting the motor. The lights from the Crofton Mill rippled and shimmered over the ocean, highlighting driftwood and flocks of seagulls tossing on the light chop. They all watched the lights of Vesuvius ferry dock, the Vesuvius Inn Pub behind it, and the cluster of houses around the bay loom closer. For a moment, Rafe's vision faltered for them...this was definitely not the bright lights of Vancouver.


Li Read was waiting for them at the restaurant, precisely at 6:30 a.m. She had brought the up-to-date financial figures requested by Rafe, plus the zoning bylaws for the commercial area of Ganges. She had also included a copy of the Community Plan, and weather statistics, population, and projected growth figures for the Island.

"Hello, everyone...nice to meet you all. The owner's inside, and he said just to take a good look at everything. He's here, if you have any immediate questions. Oh, and I brought some plans that the owner had done when he first bought this restaurant...he had thought of expanding the deck area facing the water, but he never got around to it."

They followed Li inside. The owner, sitting with a cup of coffee, at a table near the window, waved at them, and pointed to the coffee pot. "Just help yourselves." They smiled their thanks; Gerry poured a coffee, and so did Jim, stifling several gigantic yawns. Rafe did the talking, as they toured the kitchen, the prep area, the main seating area, the washrooms, and stood out on the deck above the Harbour.

"There's another two years on the lease," explained Li, "and presently the owner has an option to renew for a further three years. In this development, though, the landlord requires a new lease when a business sells. I'll set up an appointment for you to talk to him about that, if you're interested in purchasing the business."

Rafe stood for a moment, watching the boat that brought the high school students to Ganges, from the other Gulf Islands, bump and nose its way into the government dock below. A floatplane, on its way to Vancouver, lifted off from the Coast Guard dock, droning its way out the Harbour.

"Yes, we're interested...we'll have a look around the Island, talk a bit...maybe meet you back at your office, say around 10:30? OK? Good...thanks for coming out so early to show us this."

"No problem...I'll leave these plans with you now, then, and you can bring them back to me at the office. See you later!" Li followed them out to their car, and turned in the direction of her office, next door to the Dairy Queen.

Gerry, still driving, followed Rafe's directions to an upper village area, to a tiny cafe full of truckers and drywallers and excavators and tree-fallers and contractors, all eating heaping breakfasts, all gossiping about their upcoming work days.

"Wow!" breathed Jim. "Does no one sleep in around here? It's only seven o'clock!"

They all ordered the breakfast special, and sat at the only free table. "These are the construction guys," explained Rafe, "and they're not our customers. These guys aren't going to pay a minimum of $60 for dinner for two. They go to the pubs. So...that's the question...who is our market? Can we pay the rent? Is everyone in on trying to create the future here? Let's hear from you!"
It wasn't an easy decision. They all agreed they wanted out of the city. They all agreed that their inquiries showed Salt Spring was quickly developing into a destination recreational area. There were some similarities to Sausalito in the Sixties, and it would be fun to create a successful business, and to be in on the ground-floor of the coming development changes. It was going to be a big lifestyle change in the short-term, though.
They wrestled it around, agreeing to keep talking as they went for a short drive around some areas Rafe wanted them to see...St. Mary Lake, Beddis Beach, the two busiest pubs, the four marinas, the sailing club, the yacht club outstation from Vancouver, the seaplane docking station, the two organic vegetable farms....

"Look!" They turned to see what Jim was pointing at. Gerry pulled into the side of the road, and cut the motor. The silence of early morning welled around them. "What are they?"

"Llamas", answered Rafe. "People breed them over here. They sell them to back-packing tourist outfits in the Cascades."

"Llamas," repeated Jim, slowly. They all sat in silence, watching the llamas, in single file, pick their way across the field. "That's it, for me. Anywhere people are breeding these beautiful things is somewhere I want to live."

They all laughed, but they all agreed. The parade of animals, in the calm of early morning, in this rural splendour, had revitalized Rafe's arguments for bringing their business enterprise to the Island. Maybe Rafe was right...timing was everything, and perhaps the Island's time was ripe to coincide with theirs.

They all shook hands on it, and went to find Li at her office, to put in their offer on the restaurant.


To be continued....

Does Rafe's idea of a California/Mexican "nouvelle cuisine" restaurant turn out to be successful? Do people come especially, from Victoria and Vancouver Island? Do they also buy a farm to grow their own organic vegetables? Does Jim get into raising llamas, and win prizes for his herd at competitions in Oregon? Does Gerry write a book of Rafe's low fat recipes, and get interviewed on a Vancouver talk show program? Does a famous Hollywood movie star, making a film in Vancouver, sail to Salt Spring on a weekend off, and fall in love with their seaside restaurant?

Your ideas are welcome! Email Li with suggestions!

Contact Li Read at Sea to Sky Premier Properties (Salt Spring), 4 - 105 Rainbow Road, Salt Spring Island, BC, V8K 2V5; Direct Tel: 1-250-537-7647