On a busy afternoon, the Europe Old Fashion Bakery and Deli in downtown Port Coquitlam is a hive of activity.
Uniformed members of Port Coquitlam Fire and Emergency Services are purchasing the fixings to make 16 sandwiches, customers are stocking up on cakes, doughnuts, bread and meats and happy children are munching on cookies.
But an end to an era is on the horizon for the popular establishment that has served up hearty, savoury and sweet goods for several decades.
The owners of Europe Old Fashion Bakery and Deli (2552 Shaughnessy St.) are retiring, after having sold the business to a new couple.
Maria Luis, who owned the bakery for 21 years next month, along with her husband, Victor, expressed heartfelt sadness as she prepares to say her final good-byes to staff and her loyal clientele.
She told the Tri-City News, on the one hand, she'll miss everyone.
But on the other, she'll be glad to not set her alarm clock for the wee hours of the morning to get to the bakery by 2:30 a.m. every day.
"I'm happy, but sad sometimes," said Maria, who said the shop will switch ownership on Tuesday (March 8).
In addition to Maria and Victor, sons Carlos and Victor Jr. also work at the bakery, which has good reviews on Trip Advisor.
A sign that the family will be missed are the hundreds of comments on social media.
Dozens of people expressed support for the couple's retirement on the Port Coquitlam Community Connections Facebook page, recalling tempting treats such as Black Forest cakes and long john doughnuts.
"So many good memories and calories from Europe Bakery! All the best in retirement!" one comment reads.
On Thursday (March 3), roughly a week or so before the shop will switch hands, a firefighter brought flowers for Maria, expressing sadness at her imminent departure.
Chad Evans, who is from PoCo's hall No. 1, told the Tri-City News firefighters have been frequenting the bakery since before he joined the department in 2004.
He says the chocolate-covered long john doughnuts are "the best you'll find anywhere."
Maria said she and Victor will be taking it easy when they retire and are considering a trip to Portugal, where they are originally from and Maria's sisters still live.
The couple have no plans to move from PoCo, where they've called home the last 18 years, and believe the bakery will be in good hands, with no immediate changes and the staff continuing to be employed.
"It's time for us to retire," said Maria, who is 70 years old.
Still, giving up the place after so long could be difficult. But there will be a transition period for the new owners.
Victor said he and his son will hang around for a few months helping the new owners transition into the business, including sharing all the recipes he has filed in his head, like the one for natas — a Portuguese pastry. He says he'll typically bake up to 600 of the treats in preparation for a busy weekend.
The couple is the second owners of the shop; having purchased the bakery from its original owners, who ran the shop for 23 years before them.
With its busy counter, and shelves — and staff scurrying between the mixers, refrigerators and cooling racks — the shop has been a mainstay of Port Coquitlam's downtown.
However, with new owners, this important shopping destination will continue to operate, breathing life into the downtown area, which the city is revitalizing with the recent changes to McAllister Avenue, plans to upgrade Veterans Park this summer and a retrofit of Leigh Square.
- with files from Mario Bartel, Tri-City News