New Minas café makes bid to turn empty lot into 'artsy' community hub
Edible Art opened in November 2013
A four-year-old café in an unlikely location between Wolfville and New Minas is making a bid to turn an empty lot into an "artsy" community hub.
Jesse Vincent and his wife opened Edible Art Café in 2013 in a building on a stretch of New Minas's Commercial Street where restaurants and businesses are sparse. The café serves soups, sandwiches and frozen meals, and also hosts an art gallery and live music. Vincent says the combination seems to be working.
"Let's just say that we're glad that we have unlimited parking at the old high school grounds," he said. "There'll be 40 cars in there at a time over lunch."
Plans to expand
Vincent says his family has plans to expand the business, but this summer he received notice from their landlord that that company was being foreclosed upon, and that the property would be sold at auction.
Vincent's family had been planning to buy the property for several years, but the news forced them to speed up saving for a down payment. They have turned to crowdfunding to try to raise enough funds.
"It just happened so fast. We had a two-year plan to purchase the building, but now the auction is going to be end of October or early November," he said.
Vincent says his family wants to locate their expanded business on the old Horton High School site for several reasons. The rent is cheaper than in a mall location, but if they can become property owners they want to do "community-oriented" things like set up permaculture or sustainable agricultural systems, or use the land as a co-op.
"There's people that have come to us to do farm markets on that property. The potential is endless. That's why we're here," he said, adding that he doesn't think a new landlord would allow his company to try these ideas.
Vincent says his family has set a crowdfunding goal of $80,000 by Oct. 1. As of Thursday they were sitting at $5,770.
'Kind of an odd location'
The Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce gave an award to Edible Art in 2014 to recognize it as a new business — an award given in part to recognize a business that is doing something unique, the chamber president says.
"They're offset from the main road. They're by themselves," AVCC president Jeremy Lutes said. "It's kind of an odd location, but in the restaurant business you don't last six months unless you're doing something right, and they've been there a while. So something positive is happening, absolutely."
'We'd love to see the area developed'
Kings County Mayor Peter Muttart agrees Edible Art seems to be bucking the trend for the type of businesses in the area. He would "dearly love" to see it succeed there.
"It's a business that occupies a property that hasn't previously been active from a business point of view. Secondly, it's located in the area that it is between Wolfville and New Minas where eating establishments are frequented and appreciated," he said.
"I'm sure that, no pun intended, there's a real appetite to see that they stay there."
In 2007, the old Horton High School was demolished and a developer acquired the property with the goal of putting housing on it. However, the houses that were built never completely filled the site. The building where Edible Art is housed was an old school outbuilding called the band room and bus garage, and much of the grounds around it have remained empty since 2007.
"The people that currently own that restaurant were entrepreneurial enough to take advantage and realize that there was a potential for an eating establishment, and good on them," said Muttart.
"We'd love to see the area developed."