When the Milseán Fresh coffee kiosk in the Langley Memorial Hospital (LMH) lobby closes on Thursday, it will mark the end of 16 years in the business of making candy and other tasty treats for founding owners Rob and Maureen Robinson.
Milseán Fresh Café on the first level of LMH will close the same day.
“That’s the last part of it,” Rob said.
The parents of two and grandparents of six closed their Aldergrove storefront and tea house in late December.
“It was time for us to retire,” Maureen said.
Their children, son Scott and daughter Clare, both grew up working in the family business, but they have gone on to success in other areas, the Robinsons said.
The name Milseán comes from the Gaelic word for “Sweet Things” (pronounced “meel-shawn”).
Milseán has won numerous national and international awards.
It is best known for it’s Demerara Butter Crunch, which combines soft crunch toffee with almonds or hazelnuts coated in Belgian chocolate.
It’s a treat found in places like Rita McNeil’s Teahouse in Nova Scotia, the Empress in Victoria, B.C. Ferries, and even at the White House in Washington, D.C. – during the Clinton administration.
Milseán began as a homebased business in south Aldergrove on Maureen’s family farm, Emerald Acres, in 1992.
Maureen was making homemade butter crunch for some catering clients at the time, and it proved to be a huge hit.
“It’s an old family recipe that I sort of tweaked,” Maureen explained. “The clients kept asking for the candy.”
They started small.
“We ran a commercial kitchen out of the basement for 11 years,” Maureen said.
“The garage was our shipping department.”
When the Robinsons needed more space, they bought the former Langley Township firehall at 2900 272nd St., next to the old hockey arena.
“We spent a whole year on renovations,” Rob said, including seismic upgrades.
The upstairs became their home and downstairs was turned into a 4,000-sq.-ft. candy factory in the back.
There was no pole for fireman to slide from the top floor to the bottom, by the way.
“It was a volunteer firehall,” Ron said.
“If we had a dollar for every time someone asked us that question …”
In 2003, they opened the cafe in the front.
Their work on the former firehall won the Robinsons a heritage conservation award from the Langley Heritage Society.
When the Robinsons heard that the contract for the hospital was coming up, they bid and won it in 2014.
“We were up against all the big guys [like] Starbucks and Tim Hortons,” Maureen recalled.
After the small family-run business got the contract, a hospital director called them the “Davids who took down Goliath.”
Since the “closed” signs went up at the Aldergove storefront on Dec. 22, some customers have still come by and a few have even knocked on the locked doors.
“I just tell them that we’re retiring,” Rob said.
Customers seem happy to hear that Milseán isn’t quite going out of business, he said.
They will still be making their candies, but “only around Christmas time” Maureen said.