Boîte TO GO
Kim Samuelsen’s twee Junction café
By MARTA S
15-second, deliciously snackable video filmed and edited by Carrie Hayden.
I step into Kaffebar one overcast Wednesday afternoon to meet its owner, Kim Samuelsen. Bright, simple in design, and very cozy, the space sits on a block of Dundas West in the Junction that’s dotted with independent and artisanal food and drink offerings, nestled in among older neighbourhood businesses.
“We try to make the best coffee, and feature roasters from Toronto,” Kim says. “Everything is made in-house for the baked goods,” except for the croissants which she gets in on the weekends from La Bamboche.
“[Croissants are] pretty time consuming! Otherwise, I do all the baking myself,” Kim tells me. When I ask her how much she bakes every day, she laughs.
“A lot. Like, dozens and dozens of muffins, and whatever else. It’s fun though, because I can choose what I want to do each week and keep it seasonal if I want to.”
Despite her baking prowess, Kim wasn’t working in the service industry before opening Kaffebar in September of 2014.
“Previous to this, I was a consultant at a small consulting firm, but I had always wanted to have my own café,” she shares. “I had been a barista all throughout high school and university. I loved working at coffee shops. I couldn’t hack my office job anymore, so I quit a year and a half ago and opened this place.”
Kim settled happily into the neighbourhood. “It’s not super concentrated with coffee and cafés,” she says of the area. “It’s got a really good neighbourhood vibe. I wanted to have a coffee shop which would cultivate community in a neighbourhood setting. That’s why I chose the Junction.”
90% of her clientele, she tells me, are regulars. Indeed — a customer comes in, and she fills his order instinctively without even pausing our conversation, save to ask him how he’s doing. “It’s almost shocking when someone comes in and I don’t know who they are or what they drink. It’s good!”
Upon moving in, Kim learned her property had a place in local lore.
“When [Kaffebar] first opened up, people would come by asking, ‘Where’s Frank? Where’s Frank?’ And I was like, ‘Uh, I dunno,’” she recalls, smiling. When a group of bikers stopped in one day asking for Frank, Kim — a petite, young blonde — had to tell them the place was no longer his.
“[The space] used to be a motorcycle shop, years and years ago. [Frank] was this motorcycle guy, but he was also, like, the neighbourhood messiah, I guess. Apparently, people who weren’t even into motorcycles would come by to chat with him, and he would always provide them with life advice. [People asking for Frank] happened a lot in the beginning. It was a little bizarre. And still once in a while I’ll get the random, ‘Oh, is this Frank’s place?’” she says with a chuckle.
For the first seven months of Kaffebar’s existence, Kim worked the café alone, seven days a week. Although still entirely in charge of managing the business, she now has someone work the weekends for her, providing her with valuable free time. “If you can have help right away, it’s way easier,” she advises.
“In the beginning, even though your day is done, you’re not really done work. You have to stay on top of things, because if you don’t, no one else is going to. It’s something that you’re always thinking about. You go to sleep thinking, ‘Okay, I’ve got to do this tomorrow or else I won’t have Earl Grey tea for whoever wants to order it.’ Those kinds of things — where you realize, ‘I’m responsible for everything.’”
“If you could be doing anything else in the world, what would it be?” I ask.
Kim thinks for a moment. “If I could travel — get paid to travel somehow. If I was working for, like, Conde Nast Traveller Magazine, and getting paid to check out all the hotels? That’d be pretty cool.”
For the time being, she and her regulars seem pretty pleased to have Kaffebar brewing in the Junction.
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