Senior opens a food truck to sell her popular cinnamon buns

Great-grandmother Ada Acton leans out of her bright-yellow food truck in Capital Iron’s parking lot and passes a warm cinnamon bun to James (Jimbo) Insell, who works nearby.

It’s his first visit and Ada gets to know him during a friendly chat. “I love my customers,” she said.

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Husband Don Acton beams. “That’s why I married her. She’s a sweetheart.”

Insell, who had walked away, returns with a review: “It tastes amazing. Thank you so much.”

He leaves again. Then he’s back once more, this time ordering two more buns to share with friends. “It’s just so soft and the icing is so good.”

Ada’s Heavenly Cinnamon Buns are sold from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. — or until supplies run out — on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays out of an eye-catching food truck, decorated with two huge faux buns, and painted swirls and angel wings. A large bun is $4, a mini is $2, and it costs 50 cents for creamy icing.

David Esbati runs Mr. Tube Steak, Ada’s neighbour on the lot. He works year-round “rain or shine,” he said.

“I don’t have to answer to anybody. I come here and talk to people.”

The Hungry Rooster food truck is also moving onto the Capital Iron lot at the end of next week to sell perogies made from family recipes, said Paulina Tokarski, who runs the operation with her mother Janina. Dates and times are still being firmed up but will be posted on the website, hungryrooster.ca.

Eveline Black, property manager for Store Street Holdings, which includes Capital Iron, said the food vendors approached the company.

The number of food trucks in Greater Victoria is climbing, in step with a North American trend of people patronizing food trucks that offer a variety of dishes. The cinnamon bun truck joins more than 20 licensed in the city of Victoria.

Ada, the mother of four girls, grandmother and great-grandmother to a baby boy, turns 71 this year. She retired 12 years ago after running Ada’s Original Cinnamon Ltd. on Burnside Road for seven years. Before that, she ran Ada’s Cinnamon Break on Government Street, also Store Street Holdings property.

Retirement wasn’t for Ada.

“I was bored.”

Some people are surprised that the Actons are starting a new venture, but Don said, “we want to show that we can still be alive and active in our older age.”

The couple are among a growing number of older workers who are either self-employed or working for someone else.

More than half of workers, aged 55 to 64, who left long-term jobs between 1994 and 2000, were employed again within 10 years, Statistics Canada said in a January report.

In Greater Victoria, estimates show that 30 per cent of residents will be 65 and older by 2035, up from 20 per cent now.

“With better health outcomes later in life and the availability of more flexible work arrangements, many older Canadians are delaying retirement and staying in the workforce longer,” TD Economics said in a 2012 report.

This reflects a broader trend in many advanced economies, TD said.

Meanwhile, Ada is up at 5 a.m. three days a week to prepare cinnamon buns in the kitchen of North Douglas Church, where she is a member of the congregation. Ada credits a personal relationship with God for much of her success over the years.

Don, who works part-time at a church, is also at the truck. The 1978 Dodge Diplomat was once their vacation vehicle. But after Ada decided to get back into the cinnamon bun business last year, the Actons invested about $10,000 in creating the food truck business.

“I’m having so much fun. I’ve never felt so alive,” Ada said.

Another bonus is working with family. Two of her daughters and a grandson help out as well.

With the truck now established, Ada is looking for a permanent kitchen as she considers setting up a retail operation. After all, customers from years past are buying her buns.

One young woman, who is getting married in May, remembered Ada’s buns from the Burnside shop, and has ordered a cinnamon bun wedding cake.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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