First sign of summer appears on the beach

Oak Bay resident Edith Groom was the first customer in the door as Oak Bay Kiwanis opened the tea room at Willows Beach on Saturday. Oak Bay High 2011 grad Lauren Taylor served Groom.

Oak Bay resident Edith Groom was the first customer in the door as Oak Bay Kiwanis opened the tea room at Willows Beach on Saturday. Oak Bay High 2011 grad Lauren Taylor served Groom.

Kiwanis tea room opens for 62nd season

Half a dozen people are walking their dogs on Willows Beach as staff and volunteers prepare to open up the Oak Bay Kiwanis tea room.

One woman peeks through the windows to ask “Are you open yet?”

Inside, mild pandemonium reigns. Volunteer Steve Gorman is sent out to buy margarine and ham. Two students hired for the season show up and are put to work wiping down the tables one last time.

Student manager Jeff Thomson loads up the bakery display case with goodies: carrot cake, donuts and sausage rolls.

“We’re always a bit behind on opening day,” he says.

But then the door is unlocked and the first customer, quickly followed by a second, third, and fourth step up.

Time to roll.

The tea room has been a fixture on the beach for 62 years. It is a primary source of revenue for the service club – last year it rang up $50,000 in net profits. Tea room manager Ken Smith hopes to surpass that mark this year.

Staff, including 25 Kiwanis members, 22 volunteer seniors and five paid students, are serving up some new eats.

Sweet potato fries, nachos with cheese, and soup have been added to the menu this season.

“The big change is we’re changing the complete line of novelty ice cream items,” Smith says. Two local dairies stopped producing lower-priced items and the tea room wasn’t interested in selling expensive ice cream bars. “Kids can’t afford that,” he says.

Instead, they’ve found a Canadian supplier, Chapman ice cream, out of Markdale, Ont., which will supply the tea room with treats such as Lollys (a.k.a. popsicles) and Super cones (similar to Drumsticks).

The tea room will continue to serve tea in a properly warmed pot, Smith adds.

The Oak Bay Kiwanis tea room is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through the end of September.

vmoreau@oakbaynews.com

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