I’m not going to try and make this a generation article about how we forgot to stop and take in what’s around us. Nope; it’s about a coffee house. Not just any coffee house though. Lakeshore Coffee House is located on Lakeshore, next door to RC’s and directly across from the Waterfront Hotel. But you’ve probably walked by it dozens of times. Owner Chris Hofman and his wife Sue say it happens all the time.
“It’s a common thing we hear,” says Chris. “Our motto is you come one time, you’ll come one more.” The Hofman’s have relied heavily on word of mouth since taking over nearly four years ago. I’ll admit, prior to the interview I had said that I’d have to stop in and see what it was like, but I never did.
Lakeshore Coffee House is a community space. As I took my seat, the ‘best seat in the house’ by the big front window, I surveyed the room. There was a couple sitting together deep in conversation. Beyond them was a young man waiting for a friend. Off it the corner was a woman deep in thought, working on something. Though the phrase is often overused, I cannot think of a better way to describe it: It’s truly a friendly place.
In 2013 the Hofmans were looking for a place to call their own. Sue grew up
in a Greek family who owned restaurants throughout the city. One of which was ‘The Cozy’. The Cozy stood in the place of the Tim Horton’s in Roseland Plaza. They were a regular stopping point for a number of famous Canadian singers, Chris tells me. The previous owner of the Coffee House was considering selling at that point. Chris and Sue heard it through the grapevine and made an offer.
“It was nothing for her to transition into owning her own restaurant,” says Chris. The duo went to work putting their touches on the Coffee House. They brought in product from local bakeries and expanded their list of coffees. They change the brew each day. Chris encourages everyone to try something a little different. “For Tim Horton’s to survive on one type of coffee for 40 years is pretty amazing,” he says. The national chain helped to boost sales of dark roast, Chris says. This is due in part to the fact that not many people knew what dark roast was.
Experience something different; don’t you want to try this other stuff?” Chris says.
Chris speaks a lot about the ‘downtown drag’; a place where the personality of a city is on display through their independent businesses. “I think a downtown thrives because of the individuals,” he says. Lakeshore Coffee House has become a home for local artists. It all started when a few customers asked about an open mic night. Local performers came out in droves. “One of the great things about it was that we were not a bar,” says Chris. For that reason, they were able to have young performer demonstrate their craft.
Though open mic night has run its course and has no return in sight, its effect
has continued. One night the mother of a performer inquired about displaying some of her art. The Hoffman’s thought ‘why not?’ “Now, every single spot that is a painting has at one time or another been a local artist,” says Chris. They do have store bought pieces on display but Chris refers to them as ‘place-holders’.
Lakeshore Coffee House has partnered with Robert Bateman High School’s painting program. They display students’ works for sale at $100. The money goes right back into the program. Bateman students are even working on a mural on the exterior wall of the Coffee House that will be Downtown Burlington’s first.
Next time you’re downtown, stop in for a cup!
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