This is another piece in our series called Foot Traffic, where we take a behind-the-scenes look at local businesses and their real estate needs. If you’d like your business featured as part of this series, feel free to leave a message at the bottom of this post, or reach out on Twitter @hamiltonizes
“We really just Field of Dreams’d it.”
That’s how Jesslyn Collins, owner of Vintage Coffee Roasters at 977 King St. E summed up her move to Hamilton and her foray into entrepreneurship.
The former sommelier and veteran of the Toronto and Hamilton restaurant scenes didn’t have a complete plan when she opened her East Hamilton café. Rather she was guided by a life goal of opening her own business while still in her 20s. And Hamilton made sense for that dream come true.
“We were driven by price. We looked at the numbers and said: if everything falls through, we need to still be ok financially,” Collins said on a recent afternoon in the sun-drenched storefront.
Together with her partner, the search for a location needed to include a property that provided a commercial/retail space at street level with an apartment above. The couple looked at a number of properties on King and Main Streets and in the Barton Village, but eventually decided on the very first place they saw.
“We were driving through town on our way to dinner on James St. North one night, and on a whim, pulled over in front of this place. We looked through the windows and saw the potential,” she said of her location, which is in the middle of a five-store chain (some of which are shuttered) on a transitioning block near the Stadium.
The sensibly designed café – which boasts oversized custom crown mouldings, reclaimed barn board and an exposed brick wall running the length of the space (which took Collins a considerable amount of sweat equity to achieve) – was actually an afterthought. Prior to opening, coffee roasting was her main focus and Collins already had her signature grinds in a number of prominent Hamilton locales, including Café Oranje.
“Before doing anything else I wanted to work on the product and make sure the quality was there.”
To complete the Field of Dreams analogy: once they built it, the people came. Lots of people.
Vintage Coffee officially opened in early July and was immediately well received by the community, particularly the growing cohort of young people and families drawn to the area for its classic housing stock, affordability and proximity to the core. (While at Vintage for this interview, a 20-something customer who worked on the next block was overheard telling Collins that her café was a “welcome addition to the neighbourhood.”)
Collins is not only grateful for her mostly local clientele, but for the support she has been shown by the Hamilton food service community as a whole.
“Opening up in Hamilton has been a soul enriching experience. The group has been great; there is no ego at all and there’s so much collaboration.”
Already one customer appreciation night in, Collins is looking for more opportunities to give back and help out in the community, such as supporting neighbourhood enterprises like Oliver’s Garden Project. But in the immediate future, Collins has growth in her sights and is currently working with her agent to find a location for future business expansion and projects.