It Takes a Village…Coffeehouse

It Takes a Village…Coffeehouse
By Genevieve Allen Hearn

When you visit the location that Alice Hartling chose for a coffeehouse in Canning, it’s not hard to see the appeal. The storefront is nestled among other charming spots such as the seasonal ArtCan Gallery & Café, Crystany’s Brasserie, Aspinall Pottery, and Esmé, and it backs on to the Habitant River, providing a pastoral view. As we chat, June Grainger of i scream stops by to say hello. Meanwhile, tourists are outside on the benches devouring their ice cream cones before they melt in the late summer heat.

Originally from Windsor, Alice moved to Canning after spending twenty years in Whitehorse. Providing a space for strengthening community is important to Alice, which is why she chose to open a café. After considering this business venture for months, she entered a social enterprise competition held by Andy Horsnell Consulting. Her idea was selected, and Andy has been helping Alice articulate her vision and consider the core values of her endeavour. “Andy keeps me focused and on task,” Alice says, “He helps me to know what part of the vision I need to stay true to.”

Andy comments, “At the time I received Alice’s proposal, there were really limited options for a “third place” (first place is home, second place is work, third place is where you find community) in the Village of Canning – a public place where anyone could drop in, linger over a coffee, find out what’s going on in the community, and connect with old friends and new. Alice’s proposal and enterprise was directly addressing that need.”

The vision is to a provide a space where people can work, meet, and gather in a comfortable atmosphere. Alice is using local products, such as North Mountain Coffee beans for the coffee, and she will help to support other local ventures by way of selling or promoting their products in the café space. When asked to define social enterprise, Andy explains, “Unlike regular businesses, they don’t need to generate a significant financial return on investment; below market rates of return are okay, as long as the enterprise is addressing some important community need. Social enterprises are generally grassroots organizations that are locally owned and operated by people who live in and care about the local community.” Andy points to other social enterprises in the Valley such as Just Us, the Acadia Cinema Co-op, L’Arche Homefires, CAPRE, the Flower Cart Group, and S.O.U.P. as successful examples.

Because Alice is starting from scratch, her goal is to put forward the “leanest version of my best self” when she opens. She will offer coffee and baked goods, as well as a space to gather, and a back room that she can rent for meetings. She will also be connecting with the arts community to offer evening events. Her first music event is already booked for October 4 at 7:30pm featuring Spring Breakup, Kim Barlow, and the The Burning Hell Band. Tickets are $15 at the door.

Alice says she will be accepting of how the community would like to shape the growth of the business over time, as long as the core values are maintained.
“I’m finding the balance of where to start, and trying to do it with grace,” Alice laughs. She describes how putting all the separate pieces together to open a small business is challenging at times. “I go from excitement, to being terrified, to being overwhelmed, to feeling excited again.”

Alice consciously notes how important support from the community is to local entrepreneurs. “Pam and Richard have been such supportive and encouraging landlords. I feel so fortunate and grateful that they have been so committed to making this happen.” She also mentions support from the local business community, as well as community members who drop in to express their excitement.

It’s clear that Canning is experiencing a renaissance. New businesses such as Crystany’s Brasserie and i scream are going strong, and the business community is noticing a spike in tourists choosing to make Canning a destination. The Village Coffeehouse, set to open in the beginning of October, will give folks one more reason to stay awhile, and feel a sense of community along the peaceful Habitant River.

You can find more information about The Village Coffeehouse by visiting the Facebook page.