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Out with the old, in with the new

You’ll still be able to get those happy face cookies, the ones with the shiny icing that change colour with the seasons – red for Valentine’s Day, orange at Halloween, and blue with player numbers for the Canucks’ faithful.

Those happy face cookies are almost legendary, says Haney Bakery owner Grant Balfour. He even ships them to Mexico, Texas and Greece.

But he’s not sporting such a smile these days.

Come April, his customers will have to go to another spot in the mall or a new downtown location as Balfour, after 26 years, received notice that he has to be out of his current spot in Haney Place Mall by March 31.

“Six weeks to find somewhere, to have it wired, plumbed,” flooring installed and drywalled. “It’s just mind boggling,” he says.

Balfour has leased space at the east end of the mall since 1987, most recently on a yearly basis. Last year, he tried to renew for another year, but only got a month-to-month lease.

Then Friday he got a letter from mall owner Narland that he has to vacate his space and do so within six weeks.

“We haven’t done anything, I think, to deserve that.”

The bakery has been a loyal tenant, he added, always paying its rent, and drawing people to that part of the mall.

Balfour and his staff of eight, some who’ve been with him for 20 years, make cream puffs and cinnamon buns, Scotch pies, Cornish pasties and homemade bread. They’ve seen stores like Safeway and others come and go.

Now, with renovations and the opening of Thrifty Foods and more changes as Target readies to arrive, the mall is starting to thrive, and he’s been told he has to move.

Balfour doesn’t want to guess why, although he says Narland offered him another spot in the mall Wednesday. Any relocation requires moving equipment, including a large oven that he doubts would survive a move.

Word of the bakery closing has spread fast, with people reacting on Twitter and Facebook.

“It’s really nice that so many people are irate and angry,” Balfour said.

“We are feeling the love from our customers,” he wrote on the bakery’s Facebook page.

Art Pearson, a customer, said he was appalled that the bakery had been told to leave and that he wouldn’t shop at whoever takes the spot. Next door, Aroma Gifts, which has a larger space, is also moving.

Chris Sherry, with Narland in Vancouver, said the mall wants the bakery to remain, but there may not be the right space for it, or there could be mechanical or physical limitations.

Mall management is looking at new options, “however there may be reasons that are simply prohibitive.”

It would be nice, though, he added, if a spot could be found in the mall, which has undergone several changes in recent years.

Narland first attracted the regional head office of Westminster Savings, which resulted in new bank in the corner of the mall at 224th Street and Lougheed Highway.

The company has also spent $1 million buying property on Lougheed Highway and 226th Street and renovated the section of the mall around the new tenant, Thrifty Foods.

Those initiatives have helped with the downtown beautification program, Sherry said.

Renovations have just begun on the old Zellers store, with Target opening next fall.

Balfour said he had a place lined up outside the mall, but is also considering the offer to relocate within the mall. At this point, he isn’t sure what he’ll do.

Meanwhile, the bakery is getting into one of its busier times and the eight people who work there are feeling the stress.

“We’re not dead, we’re just moving,” he said.

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