For years, the rustic building at the corner of Ruggle’s and Floradale roads served the community as a family-run general store.
So, when the popular building – in the Ruggles family for generations – went up for sale last fall, Floradale’s own Bonnie Martin seized the opportunity to breathe new life into one of the town’s oldest gems. In its history, the 19th century structure has served as a general store and a post office.
“For years I used to admire this building and I thought it had a lot of features; I used to always tell my girlfriends that I’d love to turn this into a coffee shop,” said Martin, who remembers frequenting the store as a child.
“I used to bike here as a kid and get candy at the counter.”
Martin and many other locals always felt the building would make a great coffee shop, so when it went up for sale, she and her husband Randy voiced interest.
At the time Martin worked as a receptionist at St. Jacobs Chiropractic.
Though she enjoyed working there, Martin was convinced it was time to move on, to do her own thing.
“I loved my job down there too – awesome people to work for. I just wanted something a little more challenging,” she said.
On her morning commute to the practice, Martin noticed high volumes of traffic travelling from Drayton via Floradale. As she pondered her business venture, Martin observed closely.
“And that’s what made me think I’d be able to offer take-out to a lot of people that are coming from the Drayton area.
“It’s not until you are in Floradale that you realize how busy a place it is,” said Martin, noting she hopes the café draws employees taking a lunch break and friends looking for a comfortable place to relax.
“I’m hoping that I’ve created an ambience for that; that they’ll come in and enjoy just the surroundings. I’m hoping I can tap into the touristy end of it as well.”
To help create that atmosphere, much of the building’s interior was preserved: old counters and shelves as well as other historical relics were kept, giving the shop a rustic feel.
Post office boxes bearing recipients’ names are still intact. (Martin is still figuring out what to use them for).
Hardwood floors were refinished. Some wooden posts – not up to fire code for the residential apartments upstairs – though replaced with more fire-retardant counterparts, were salvaged and placed on the sides, adding to the overall aesthetic appeal of the building.
A couch, some armchairs, and a rack of magazines offer visitors a calm place to read by the fireplace. The new furniture and products that were purchased, including tables and chairs, harmonize well with the historical look of the building.
“The fun part of renovating was just to see the things I came across – the place was full of antiques and memories.”
Though the renovations, which the Martins and a family friend started in December, have provided a fair share of work, Martin said she and her children – the eldest of which will help out once the business is up and running – and her neighbours are excited about the new venture.
“The community has definitely been excited about the building getting a makeover,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of support from them.”
Bonnie Lou’s Cafe opens May 7. Hours of operation are Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Coffee, breakfast, lunch and takeout meals are available.
Other sweets, like fudge, peanut brittle and ice cream, will also be on hand as well as a gift shop featuring pottery, picture frames and other items.
Martin said that as the business grows into its own, Friday evening meetings, or ice cream and pie nights might also be hosted by the café.
Parking for some 14 vehicles is available in the rear of the building.