Who’s Who: Jesse Van Gestel: Top of The Charts
By Mike Butler
2019 marks the tenth anniversary of when I began writing for The Grapevine. This Who’s Who column has always been a favourite of mine to create each issue because there’s never a shortage of wonderful folk to meet, write about, and be inspired by here in the Valley. We all know people who make our community a better place to live, whether through their business, their personality, or their volunteer contributions. My 2019 Who’s Who opener is a great human being who has carved his spot in our community, and I’m very excited to get to introduce him to you: Charts Café’s Jesse Van Gestel!
I met Jesse the way a lot of us did, through his business: Charts at 16 Elm Avenue, Wolfville. The buzz that a new owner was going to re-open the existing cafe on Elm was electrifying back in the day, and I couldn’t wait to see a young, fresh face take charge of the business and see where it would go. I was certainly not disappointed with what was to come.
Though both of his parents are from Nova Scotia, Jesse grew up abroad, living in Texas, the Congo, Norway, and Scotland. However, they came back to Nova Scotia every summer so he always considered it home. Jesse went to St. FX for his bachelor’s degree in business and then he did a master’s in business in Grenoble, France.
When I asked Jesse what he did, he answered “I have a café,” which is such an understatement. Yes, Jesse is the owner and operator of Charts Café in Wolfville, but within that business he performs a wide range of tasks, including managing the cafe, working as a barista, making soups and salads, baking fresh breads, cakes, muffins, tarts, and compass buns, and being the face of the café. It’s a tough job to establish and run a new business, but Jesse has made the space his own by offering a similar look and feel to the previous café, but with added personal touches, including different food options, different local coffee, décor, seating arrangement, and operational practices.
How did this come about you wonder? Jesse comments, “before moving to Wolfville I was living in Victoria, BC working a corporate office job, but wanted to do something different and more interesting with my life. I was also hoping to move back to Nova Scotia. I loved to cook as a hobby and I love good coffee so when I heard that a coffee shop had closed I saw an opportunity to start my own café and amazingly it has actually happened. Though it has been a lot of work starting and running Charts Café, I love the job. I’m enjoying the baking and cooking as well as making the coffee drinks, and it is wonderful to see all of our regular customers each day and work with great staff every day.”
Running a small business is hard work and takes a lot of your time. But there’s got to be some give and take for leisure activities and down time or else you get burned out. “I haven’t had a whole lot of time this past year for activities outside of work,” Jesse says, “but I enjoy skiing, and go to Martock on occasion, and I am hoping to do some more hiking around the area. I also like going to the Deep Roots and Devour festivals when they are going on, as well as some of the Acadia sporting events.”
Jesse never really thought he would end up living in a small town but now that he’s back, he’s really enjoying what Wolfville is and has to offer him. He says, “Wolfville’s a particularly great place to live, as you have the nice small town feeling while there are also tons of events going on, like all of the festivals, the Acadia Cinema films, and the wide range of theatre productions. I really enjoy going to so many events here in town and incorporating my business into what’s happening here, and I appreciate the culture and activity in town.”
Many have noticed the way Jesse has embraced Acadia University and given Charts a welcoming atmosphere for students and faculty of Acadia. Acadia adds a lot of life to the town and it’s great to see the students at the café enjoying the food and drink, and to see some students working there as well.
The Valley changes with each season, bringing in tourists, and a new crop of students and residents, and there’s lot of small businesses here. When I asked Jesse what his goals were for the new year, and for the years to come, he had lots to say: “My future goals and ambitions are wrapped up in Charts Café. We have started to do a Farm to Table dinner every season, and it’s been very successful. We are getting produce from Emily teBogt’s farm, and we’ll be doing another one in January or February 2019. Long-term I am planning on getting a liquor license and extending Charts Café’s hours into the evenings as a little wine bar where we may also serve small meals and tapas. So hopefully that might happen sometime next year. All of the information you need to contact me or find out about my business can be found through our Facebook page, or certainly pop by the café with questions or concerns.”
In this Best of the Bunch issue of the Grapevine, I’m so honoured to have included Jesse Van Gestel because he is one of them: truly off the Charts! Happy New Year!