Scott Hillyer and Cyril Peach will launch their 10th Coffee Matters location in about two weeks, but you won’t find the latest addition to the 10-year-old chain anywhere in the St. John’s metro region or anywhere else in the province, for that matter.
The new spot will be located inside the Brewery Market, part of the historic Alexander Keith’s Brewery building in downtown Halifax.
Killam Properties Inc. purchased the market and Keith Hall, along with a 50 per cent interest in an adjacent property in 2015 with plans to revitalize the market and construct a new 247-unit apartment building called The Alexander.
“With all the refitting and new concepts they’re doing, they wanted a coffeehouse to be inside, so they contacted us,” says Hillyer, who admits he wasn’t considering expansion beyond the province’s borders when Bill Greenwood, a representative for the organization, contacted him last year.
“He’s been in Newfoundland many times and he’s been a great customer of ours, unbeknownst to me. As soon as he said that they wanted to put that in there, he contacted us.”
While patrons of the famed Halifax Brewery Farmers’ Market will be able to access the Coffee Matters shop from inside, the new location will also have an entrance from Lower Water Street.
“If you go past my cafe, you’re up to the Red Stag and the Alexander Keith’s actual tour room,” Hillyer says. “It’s an amazing location.”
The store is about 1,600 square feet, and Hillyer says he’s been able to capture all of that thanks to a 700-square-foot storage room across the hall.
At the nine locations in the metro region, Hillyer says, they’ve tried to take on the look of the buildings they’re in, and the same is true for the newest establishment. It just so happens that his vision lined up with what Killam had in mind.
“It was funny because they wanted me to pay this company to do my look and when I went in and did my presentation they were like, ‘Oh my god, you’re doing exactly what we want,’” Hillyer says of the natural and rustic feel with some exposed brick walls, old-fashioned lighting and furniture made of reclaimed and live wood.
“They’re very, very pleased.”
The menu, however, will feature the same locally roasted, certified fair trade organic coffee and quality Newfoundland cuisine available at the nine existing operations.
To ensure the recipes remain true to their roots, Hillyer is even shipping up a number of products and ingredients like coffee and cod, among others.
“I’m not serving haddock. I’m a Newfoundland company and there’s enough Newfoundlanders living in Nova Scotia that will appreciate cod au gratin,” Hillyer said.
“The only thing we would have to do differently to do some of our recipes is bring some products in, so I didn’t see that as an obstacle. We’re very proud of our products and who we are.”
For baked goods, however, Hillyer has partnered with a local bakery.
Notwithstanding the food, there will be a definite Newfoundland feel to the customer service. Not only will Hillyer’s director of operations, Boyde Warford, lead the way for the first three to four months, but two recent hires are Newfoundlanders who previously worked for the company, and a member of the kitchen staff is also a Newfoundlander.
Hillyer and Warford head to Halifax next week to begin training staff, with the goal of opening between Feb. 5-7.