For the last nine years, Sylvia Lilley has been operating a small business in Penticton, preparing and distributing home-style frozen meals.
But news that Lilley is shutting down Allready Soups and Suppers and delivering her last ready-to-heat meals next Friday has made her busier than ever.
“Now that I am closing down, everyone has been placing double and triple orders,” said Lilley, adding that she’s already hearing from her customers, mainly seniors, how much they are going to miss her service.
“I am going to miss them and I know they are going to miss me. They are already saying it,” said Lilley, who delivers many of the orders personally.
“We deliver after we close every night — it was a delivery and a visit. They have some great stories. I am overwhelmed with emotion,” said Lilley. “They told me about how many years they have been here and what it was like 40 years ago. Just incredible stories. I am going to miss them, I really am.”
Many of her customers are in their 80s and up to mid-90s, and Lilley said they retain a great sense of humour.
“If people would only take the time to listen to elderly people’s stories, it is fascinating and it is a learning experience too,” she said.
Lilley said she is struggling with feeling she is letting her customers down, but after nine years of being very busy, she needs to take some time for herself.
“It’s time for me to take some time off and not just a week or two. It is not easy to run a small business, have a staff member and still make money. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” she said. “My husband, Julio (Kelly), he hardly ever got a day off. He works full time, but on his days off, he would come in here and help.”
Friends also played a big role — Lilley said she got help from her good friends “Lois and Arlene,” who would lend a hand when it got too busy.
Though she has built up a good reputation, with recommendations from the hospital and veterans’ groups, Lilley said she couldn’t find anyone willing to take over the business, which operates on a very small profit margin.
“You don’t make enough money for the hours you have to work. Bottom line,” said Lilley, who purchased the business after she and Kelly moved from Calgary to Penticton to be closer to her children and grandchildren.
“This little business came up for sale almost nine years ago. I bought it and expanded it and went from there,” she said.
Lilley has more than 25 items on the menu, from “all the roasts that you can imagine” to lasagna, shepherd’s pie and homemade soups from scratch.
“We cooked everything from scratch … a real homestyle meal,” she said, adding that her clientele wasn’t limited to seniors.
“I do have a number of working young people. More men, I must say, who do get fed up with pizza or whatever,” she said.
Lilley will be closing shop on June 5, and though she expects that to be an emotional day, she has some very definite plans for the immediate future.
“I would like to spend at least July at the beach with my grandchildren,” she said. Later, she hopes to volunteer for the Better at Home program, which provides services for seniors.
“I have been saying to my customers when they come in, I will see you again. Because I will have time to wander downtown, wander around and then I will bump into them. And the ones that don’t get out, I know where they live,” said Lilley. “And if I volunteer for Better at Home, I could very well be visiting them.”