New Beverly café brings century-old history back to life

Rachel and Michael Benti wanted to open a unique coffee shop on 118 Avenue, in east Edmonton, but not without nodding to Beverly's rich history.

Burgers and poutine meet antiques and old photographs at new east Edmonton coffee shop

From left to right: Evelyn Mwakasitu, Michael Benti and Rachel Benti stand behind the counter at Old Beverly Cafe In & Out on April 20. (Madeleine Cummings/CBC)

Beverly's newest café is old-fashioned, and the owners are okay with that.

Rachel and Michael Benti wanted to open a unique coffee shop on 118 Avenue, in east Edmonton, but not without a nod to the neighbourhood's rich history.

If you walk into Old Beverly Cafe In & Out at 3908 118 Ave., you'll find a cozy room framed with antiques and old photographs. Staff wear long aprons, and the wooden beams and wall panels make the narrow space look like a mine shaft.

The Old Beverly Cafe In & Out opened in January at 3908 118 Ave. Its interior is designed to resemble a mine shaft, a nod to the nieghbourhood's history as a coal mining town. (Madeleine Cummings/CBC)

Catering to community

The married couple opened the café in mid-January after more than a year of planning.

Their vision was an inviting room where neighbours could talk to each other instead of stare at their laptop screens. Customers looking for free Wi-Fi won't find it here.

With little advertising and a lot of word of mouth, the small café has become a popular meeting spot in the community.

"The whole neighbourhood is actually noticing," Michael Benti said.

According to Rachel's observations, Beverly residents often travel to Whyte or Jasper Avenues for coffee dates.

"We just want to bring Beverly people to stay with us and this community," she said.

Café owners have roots in Ethiopia and Europe

Rachel and Michael were both born in Ethiopia but moved to Germany for school. They met in Germany in 1996 and decided to immigrate to Canada in 1997 because Michael had a brother living in Edmonton. 

The couple fell in love with the history of Beverly, which was incorporated as a town in 1914. Farming and mining were the dominant industries in the area back then.

According to records in the city's archives, there were more than 50 mines operating there between 1900 and 1950. Coal from these mines powered Edmonton's electrical system, streetcars, homes and trains.

Beverly didn't become a part of Edmonton until 1961. 

The Old Beverly Cafe In & Out opened in mid-January. It's become a popular gathering place for east Edmonton residents. (Madeleine Cummings/CBC)

Rachel's adopted mother, Karin Rieke, travelled to Edmonton from Germany to help the family with the coffee shop's interior design. She studied the neighbourhood's history and artfully arranged the old artifacts on the walls.

Some pieces came from the community, while others — such as an old voltmeter — came in her suitcase from Europe.

"She can take a piece of what we might think of as junk and turn it into something beautiful," said relative Evelyn Mwakasitu.

What's on the menu

The historical theme doesn't extend to the cafe's food and drink offerings, with burgers and poutine playing starring roles on the menu.

The "Flying Dutch Burger" specialty at $6.50, has a German-style patty, fried onions, lettuce, tomatoes, ketchup and mayonnaise. Diners can also find vegetarian options and bags of the cafe's direct-trade coffee on shelves with goods from local entrepreneurs.

Products for sale by local business owners fill these shelves at Old Beverly Cafe In & Out. (Madeleine Cummings/CBC)

Kristine Reid, who works for the nearby Old Towne Beverly Historical Society, stopped by the cafe earlier this month to check it out for the first time.

"This is a beautiful spot for a historic-based café," she said, after perusing some of the artifacts on display.

"I see some things that we would definitely relate with Beverly history and I also see some eclectic pieces," she added.

The family already has plans to expand the business and sell funnel cakes next door.

For up-to-date business hours, visit the café's Facebook page.

About the Author

Madeleine Cummings is a journalist and associate producer with CBC Edmonton.