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‘Heartbreaking’: Iconic Oak Bay cafe closing after 30 years as rent skyrockets

Owner knows most customers by their first name
Eileen Greaves (right) with her daughter Stephanie at the Oak Bay cafe she’s run for the last 30 years. (Gerry Bell photo)

A man walks into Eileen’s Cafe and starts rummaging through a tray of delectable tarts by the front door.

“Oh that’s just Bob,” says Eileen Greaves, a sly smile on her face. “He’s a miserable old sod.”

The place erupts in laughter, including Bob as he sits down next to Greaves, who seems to know every customer who walks through the door of her Oak Bay eatery by their first name.

Greaves should, she’s run the place for the last 30 years just off Oak Bay Avenue and tucked behind the Fairway Market.

Eileen’s Cafe is an institution in the community, with a loyal group of customers who drop by for an affordable cup of coffee, sandwiches, desserts and conversation.

The place is such an institution that people are pouring out their hearts at the news that it will close forever on Dec. 31 after three decades.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said one customer who was just heading in for a coffee. “I don’t want to go anywhere else because there is nothing else like it.”

Another customer, Gerry Bell, called Eileen’s Cafe an “iconic landmark.”

“For so many years, this delightful café has been a favourite breakfast and lunch spot for people working downtown on Oak Bay Avenue, for tourists and celebrities visiting the area,” said Bell. “Like sitting in a large family kitchen, local residents found the perfect gathering spot … Eileen has cooked and served them like they were all her friends and family. The regular visitors, several of whom have been coming since she opened, linger longer than those on lunch or coffee break. They share stories with each other and with Eileen whose humour and personal contributions stimulate many conversations and trigger treasured memories.”

If customers were lucky, they’d be treated to a musical performance by the owner’s daughter Stephanie, a talented singer.

Greaves is now 77 years old, but wasn’t looking to retire. She simply can’t afford the large rise in rent so she’s decided to shut down, leaving her more time with her grandchildren.

“I’m not happy about it, but I don’t have a choice,” Greaves said. “It’s been sweet doing this. I will miss all of my customers.”

Chris Campbell

About the Author: Chris Campbell

I joined the Victoria News hub as an editor in 2023, bringing with me over 30 years of experience from community newspapers in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley
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