Celebrating a strong, creative, resilient Lunenburg County
NOW, MORE THAN EVER...
Y TINA HENNIGAR
It’s 6 pm and I’m setting up to interview Mike and Amelia Bishop, the owners of The Barn Coffee and Social House in Mahone Bay. They’d already put in a full day, and were balancing their cash, when a lady poked her head in through the door that was not yet locked.
“Oh, are you closing?” she asked in disappointment, anticipating their answer.
“Yes, sorry,” Amelia apologized. “We close at 5,” “Wait,” Mike stopped her before she left. “You want a coffee?” He asked, holding up the pot. “It’s just going to get thrown out anyway.
The lady and her friend gratefully added their fixings to their . coffees and left happy. I sat back on the oversized, brown leather sofa in what feels more like a cabin than a coffee shop, and watched the couple continue to work in unison as we listened to The Illuminators over their speaker. They’re a team, Mike and Amelia, and what they have built together is very special. Over the next hour rediscovering paradise I would grow to love them, and this place even more than I already loved their coffee.
“This is more than just a business to us, and we want to do more than just make money.” Amelia said of The Barn and what they’ve managed to do here. “We want to give everyone an experience and make everyone feel like family.” It seems to have worked. Every day since opening has been busy. Mike and Amelia could feel the support from the community almost immediately, through the lineups in those early days.
They keep anticipating a slow down, but aside from a few major snow storms, it hasn’t yet. The duo credits the social media savvy of their team who work at The Barn. But that alone will not create a successful business, they caution. “You can’t just have the sizzle. You need to have something they want,” Mike insists.
“We try very hard to make people feel welcome; like they’re in our home.”
Mike spent his childhood in Truro and later moved to Boston. He was visiting his sister in Kentville when he met Amelia. With a background in education and an entrepreneur at heart, he found similar qualities in Amelia who worked in the non-profit sector, assisting other entrepreneurs.
‘You’re opening another coffee shop? You’re not going to make it, especially in February,’ was the advice they were given when they announced their plan to create a coffee shop in the old barn housed on the property beside the iconic Suttles and Seawinds retail shop in Mahone Bay.
“We knew what we were doing was going to be special. We’re thankful for every single person who comes through the door. As confident as we were, it’s still surprising.” Mike said of the buzz of The Barn.
They offer more than coffee. On the menu you’ll find specialty coffees and decaffeinated beverages such as locally made kombucha, as well as baked goods from local bakeries, soups and light fair from neighbouring restaurants. Mike doesn’t see The Barn as a competitor to other restaurants and coffee shops,
but rather, as a partner.
“No-one is coming to Mahone Bay for a cup of coffee. They come to shop and eat and experience all that we have to offer, so we have to all do well,” he insists. “So many people come in and want a restaurant, but we’re not a restaurant, so we share with them [information] on all the other cool restaurants.”
“There is really something special happening. I feel incredibly grateful and thankful to be here at this time and in this place,” Mike said of living in Martin’s River. Mike said that when Amelia began taking him around the province and they were exploring Lunenburg County he really grew to fall in love with it. “Hirtle’s, Queensland, and Carter’s Beach, I mean, they’re just incredible. I said, wow, it’s like rediscovering paradise every day. It’s like having corn flakes for the first time,” he laughed. When you look around The Barn on any given day there aremany different types of interactions happening. A group of school kids might be enjoying gourmet hot chocolate while a neighbouring table is sipping an espresso. You’ll find groups having a meeting and others sharing simple pleasantries. It was when I was leaving that Amelia shared something rather profound with me and I didn’t want to edit one single word. She said, “There are people who underestimate young people. It’s troublesome at times. But I’d love people to know that there are a ton of us who are young and fully ready to get this job done and just want to put their hearts and souls, our ideas, creativity and passion and everything we’ve got into helping to make these communities thrive. We want to do this for you.
Let us love you!” She implored. “Do you know what I mean?” she continued, apologizing for being tired and perhaps not articulating her thoughts as intended. But I knew exactly what she meant. I’ve seen it. I’ve felt it myself. It seemed like a perfect place to end it. I went home and couldn’t sleep, and it wasn’t from drinking coffee after 6pm. I was inspired. We are in amazing hands with these new, young people in our community who are doing great things, creating a new cultural vibe here. We have to support them. Let’s get out of their way and just let them go. We need to let them love us.