Losing a treasure
Indeed, we have lost an icon, and much more, with the closing of the Top of the Dome Cafe.
I worked there part-time for just over three years, and was there when it closed.
From the outset 12 years ago, Jocelyn Ema and Bill were committed to providing quality service, food and beverages in a welcoming environment. Their passion for good hospitality and their personal warmth meant many customers became friends over the years. Some Sunday breakfasts felt more like a 'family' gathering.
To others, it was a regular welcome break on a long drive. To the trampers doing the Te Araroa trail, it was a beacon and oasis at the end of a testing six hour slog over the hill.
Many's the evening they would arrive as we were closing at 5pm (after a 10hr day), and many's the evening Jocelyn would still provide them with a warm meal.
Other than the occasional statutory holiday, Bill opened up at 7am, seven days a week for twelve years. He loved a good chin wag with customers, and his many kindnesses included providing bottles of water for overheated radiators, petrol for empty tanks, tools for repairs, traffic information and advice, and treats for children.
The extended cafe family also included several abandoned animals- Tulie the tabby and Hector the rooster had their own fan base and were regularly inquired after and missed if they weren't present; and Louie Smith, the black cat, the last and more reclusive arrival.
All were taken in and loved. Those that couldn't be were rehomed.
Staff also became friends, including our wonderful students who would start as nervous juniors and leave as confident mature young adults, always keeping in touch.
The Cafe (business only ) was put up for sale, listed with real estate agent Greg Allen-Baines (also the agent for the 84ha plot the cafe sits on and the current subdivision) but it failed to find a buyer before it became necessary to close. The decision to close was difficult, and not made lightly. Typically, they were as much concerned for their staff as for themselves. Our last Sunday was a day of tears and disbelief from our loyal customer friends.
A couple of weeks after the cafe closed, while Bill and Jocelyn were out, Hector was killed and his remains tossed in the ditch. A sad end for a much loved pet.
Jocelyn loved Christmas - it's spirit shone through in her generosity and thoughtfulness to both staff and customers. As the business has now closed, they are required to vacate the house before Christmas - I don't imagine it will be much of a merry Christmas this year.
So Jocelyn, Bill and Ema, I'm sure I can say on behalf of myself, your staff, and your customers, thank you so much for your wonderful contribution to hospitality over all those years, your kindness, humour, generosity and big hearts. You will definitely be missed very, very much.
Sue Hill, Wellsford