Pleasing the suburbs and the city are two different things, but Jordan Myall feels he can do both. After establishing Cafellini as the go-to cafe in Saint-Bruno, an affluent suburb of Montréal’s South Shore, Myall and his mother/business partner, Johanne Houle, have decided to take their formula right to the heart of the city.
The second Cafellini was launched early January in a busy part of Beaubien Street, at the crossroads of Rosemont, the Mile End, and La Petite-Italie. Although there are already many quality independent cafes in the area, Myall and Houle are confident that their “customers first” approach will please the neighborhood coffee crowd.
“I find it sad when I go into a cafe and see all those people behind their laptop screens,” says Houle. “They all take a peek to see who just came in and quickly go back to their own world… There is no Wi-Fi in our new cafe, as we want it to be a place where people meet, talk, socialize. And it starts with our own staff!”
Myall, a well-known figure in the Montréal coffee scene, seems to know everybody who walks in and if he doesn’t, it won’t be long before he becomes a friend. “It’s been our trademark since we opened our first cafe nine years ago,” explains Myall. “We are close to our customers—there are even some drinks named for longtime clients—and I think it’s a big factor in our success. That’s what we will try to reproduce here.”
Looking to expand the Cafellini brand, Houle and Myall had been thinking of a Montréal cafe for a long time when an opportunity presented itself. “We worked on another locale—a bit east on Beaubien Street—for a few months, but we weren’t fully confident that it would work out. At the end of our three month lease, we walked out,” reminds Houle. “We had also been talking with the owner of Café Volane, but weren’t sure we wanted to buy an existing business. When the other project ended, we made up our minds and quickly sealed the deal.”
Transforming the artsy little cafe proved a bit more complicated than the new owner expected, as Myall explains: “I was targeting a mid-December opening, but my mother was laughing at me! There are so many things to think of!”
For years now, Myall and his mother have worked as a tight-knit duo: Houle taking care of the business side, while Myall brings his knowledge and passion of coffee. “I wouldn’t be able to stand behind the espresso machine,” admits Houle, “but there is a lot to do outside of coffee. And my son is kind of an artist, who often needs someone to bring him back to reality!”
So, it took a few extra weeks of work to get the locale ready for opening. Those who knew Café Volane will be surprised by the brightness of Cafellini. The red façade has been painted in white, like the interior walls. There are only three large wooden tables, some shelves on the wall to store the coffee beans, a counter at the back where a bright yellow Nuova Simonelli espresso machine gets all the attention.
Myall and his staff work with their own coffee beans, roasted to their specifications by Barista, a Montreal-based artisan roaster which works in an Italian tradition, but with modern standards. “We started our collaboration more than eight years ago,” recalls Houle, as Barista’s co-owner Enrico Serena walks into the cafe. “They helped us a lot and we’re happy to see that they are still here to continue with us in this new project.”
There is a light lunch menu and the owners have kept some of their South Shore caterers, along with new providers from the neighborhood.
Myall plans to spend most of the coming weeks at the new Cafellini in order to get the cafe going and to train his team. “But I’ll be back in St-Bruno, at least some days each week, to see my friends and meet our loyal customers,” he reassures me.
“Our business is growing, but we shouldn’t forget our roots.”
With additional photography by Fred Tougas.