After almost a year of market research and interviews, Robin Martin has deemed the time is right for an upscale café in downtown Elmira. Next month, she is opening the doors to her new shop, The Robin’s Nest, at 29A Church St.
“We have a lot of people that commute to the city and have become accustomed during the workday to go and get a good cup of coffee,” she said. “There is no one here in town that specialized in good coffee.”
Martin’s shop will sell organic, fair-trade coffee supplied by Planet Bean in Guelph, as well as organic tea from a supplier in Ottawa. The kitchen also has a large oven where they can prepare many of the cookies, croissants, muffins, and desserts such as chocolate mousse and cake that she plans to sell.
Martin is a second generation Canadian and was raised by her grandparents on a farm near Georgetown, where he grandfather was a botanist and grew flowers such as peonies. She moved on to study nursing and gerontology at the University of Guelph and spent 15 years in town working with the elderly and in palliative care. From there, she moved on to work for the Region of Waterloo in economic development, where she said she gained considerable experience working with the various townships. She became interested in helping to increase the economic potential of downtown Elmira.
Now, she can be on the frontlines of that rejuvenation.
“I’m going to sit in on some of the round-table discussions that are going on with the economic development plan,” she said of Woolwich’s current study. “And hopefully sit on some of the steering committees that fit with my background and with the BIA group as well. I love the town, I like the administration, and I see a lot of potential.”
Martin does have experience working as a barista, having worked at a coffee shop to put herself through university. She says that she has learned a lot about the coffee industry through that work, as well as through employees at Planet Bean. Selling equitable, fair, and environmentally-conscious products is important to her.
“I think part of what I need to do is help to educate the community,” she explained. “Good Arabica beans are shade-grown, and each and every single bean that you grind up has been touched by someone’s hand. They’re not picked by machines, they’re picked by hand because the coffee cherries ripen at different times – I think people need to know that.”
Martin said that because her products are higher quality than what the typical coffee shop will offer, and they are on the higher end of the fair-trade pricing range, her prices are a little more expensive, but she certainly thinks those slightly higher costs are worth it.
“When (customers) sit for 10 minutes in a drive-thru for the bigger retail chains, they don’t realize what impact that cup of coffee has when $0.02 are being paid for it to the farmers. It is important to me. Growing up on a farm, I know how hard people work, and even though the farms aren’t local, it’s a sustainable future.”
The Robin’s Nest will be host an open house on Dec. 4 from 6 to 10 p.m. for people in the community to come and meet Martin and her staff, and to celebrate the Christmas season. She also welcomes other local businesses to come out and introduce themselves. On Dec. 6 the shop will be open for business, with the grand opening set for Dec. 13.
The shop features a 500-square-foot seating area with room for between 20 and 24 people. Martin hopes to double that with an outdoor patio next spring. The café will also have free wi-fi internet access for business professionals or anyone looking to do some studying, and big leather chairs will add to the comfortable atmosphere.
She will also be selling coffee and coffee beans, mugs featuring the café’s design that Martin created herself, and even the art on the wall, provided by local artists, photographers, and sculptors.
The café will be open Sunday through Wednesday 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Thursday through Saturday 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Martin said that she can extend those hours if demand warrants it.
She is also hiring four full-time employees, and next week they are beginning what she calls “coffee college.” Each employee will learn why the coffee tastes the way it does, the difference between a light and a dark roast, how is it picked, where is it grown, even as far as learning the names of the farmers who grow the beans.
“It is more of a career for them to become a barista than it is just a job.”