Story and Photos by Marlene Wandel
The neon sign at the corner of Bay and Court has been an iconic Thunder Bay presence for over 50 years. Passersby have surely noticed the changes happening at the Royalton this winter, and will be happy to know the sign isn’t going anywhere.
Terry Desaulniers and Leafy Shaw-Husfeldt became the owners of the Royalton last January—the third since it opened in 1936 as the Bay Hotel. For many, the Royalton is a cornerstone of downtown Port Arthur, and brings to mind pickled eggs and trays of beer. Historically, the Royalton was much more; home to five businesses, the Royalton consisted of the bar as we know it, hotel rooms, bed and lodging rooms, a dining room, and the ladies lounge. The new owners have a vision of restoring the multifaceted operations of the Royalton, in the spirit of the ongoing Bay Street renaissance.
In conversation with Shaw-Husfeldt, it is clear she has respect for the Royalton’s past, and a vision for the future. With pool balls clacking in the background and spring sunlight streaming in through a door that is being replaced, she reminisces about visiting Royalton’s Rainbow Dining Room for family meals in her youth, and the 22-seat coffee bar in the lobby, complete with pie cooler. These memories are part of the blueprint for the future.
The external facelift is essentially complete. The Royalton has remained open, as it has since 1936; current clientele are part of the ongoing change. With renovation plans for the rooms upstairs, and visions of an operational kitchen and dining room downstairs, the Royalton is something to keep an eye on. In the meantime, the bar and lounge are open, and the pickled eggs, made from the original family recipe, are still for sale. These days they are kept in the fridge, but a plastic effigy of the pickle jar rests on the counter, as a reminder that while change may happen, the roots of the Royalton run deep.