As you walk up to the red front door of Little Brick, the latest in chef and owner Nate Box’s cafe empire, you almost feel guilty for not bringing a hostess gift. Between the idyllic surroundings and historic brick building, it’s as if you’re coming over to a friend’s house for a cup of coffee.
“This property was the main reason we ended up building here,” says Box. He wasn’t in the market for another cafe, but when a friend presented the space to him, he just couldn’t say no. He brought his expertise (Box also owns Elm Cafe, Burrow and District Coffee Co.) to the community of Riverdale, a residential neighbourhood with virtually no retail stores, and transformed the former J.B. Little house. The main floor contains the cafe itself, the kitchen, overflow rooms that can be used for private events and, of course, the general store.
Figuring out what to stock was a collaborative effort. “We kind of broke it down into categories and tried to figure out what’s essential to a house,” says Box. Many products they were already carrying in the other cafes made the list, such as KeepCups, caramels and a brand of almond milk that steams properly. “We’re actually helping people take products from start to retail as well,” says Box. An example is Elm Catering executive chef Allan Suddaby’s apple cider vinegar, a product from his new venture, McKernan Foodworks.
When it comes to Little Brick, Box is far from done. He’s planning to build out the kitchen, put in a patio and landscape the yard with help from horticulturalist Sarah Birmingham, who lived in the house for more than 20 years. While Riverdale is a bit of a destination spot, as Box says, a lack of customers is definitely not an issue. “The first Sunday we were open, we actually killed the espresso machine,” says Box. “It just had enough and gave up.”
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