Nova Scotia

Nova Scotian driving home to take over beloved Chéticamp café

A woman originally from Cape Breton who's longed to come home for years is returning to the island to take over a well-loved café in Chéticamp.

The Frog Pond will get new owners and a new name, inspired by an interstate exit

The Frog Pond as seen from the Sunset Gallery in August 2020. (Brittany Wentzell/CBC)

A well-loved café and art gallery in Chéticamp, N.S., is changing hands. 

The Frog Pond Café and Sunset Gallery is a familiar stopping point for many travelling Cape Breton's Cabot Trail. The colourful spot is being sold by William Roach and his wife, Linda. 

William is a lifelong woodcarver and started the Sunset Gallery 30 years ago after deciding he wanted to pursue art full time.

"The first year we opened, we did better at the art than I was doing at work, so it's been really good," said William.

He said his love of woodcarving started when he was five years old and his uncle showed him how to whittle. From there, he said art has kept him going through tough times, like when he overcame addiction.

"It's helped me to fill in that gap, that hole in there that you can't fill," he said, pointing at his heart.

William and Linda Roach show some art in the Sunset Gallery. (Brittany Wentzell/CBC)

William Roach carves colourful scenes or creatures like blue pigs, multicoloured roosters, and lifelike fish.

Over the years the gallery grew to include a studio and a café, the Frog Pond, named for a little pond on the couple's property. 

Linda Roach said the best thing about having the café has been meeting people from across the world.

"We've had a lot of celebrities," she said. 

They've sold artwork to actor Alan Arkin and musician Billy Joel. The Governor General has visited the shop and last summer comedian Ron James was at the café every morning for days. 

But it's the regular traffic the couple is going to miss the most. William and Linda Roach would have big parties at the site several times a year, inviting anyone who could play an instrument to bring one. 

"To me it's just like it was a big family," said William. 

A pig carved by William Roach. (Brittany Wentzell/CBC)

The couple taking over the café and gallery are Erin Boyd and Matthew Zeilfelder, who are from Washington state. Boyd grew up in Nova Scotia, left, and has been longing to return for 20 years.

"It's just such an incredible opportunity. Cape Breton is such a beautiful place," said Boyd. 

Boyd said she knew she wanted to own a tourist business in Cape Breton and stumbled upon the listing for the Frog Pond one sleepy afternoon. She said it was too great an opportunity to pass up.

New owners, new name

The pair were recently married and are slowly making their way through the United States, treating it as a bit of a honeymoon. The plan is to arrive in a couple of months and prepare the gallery and café to open under a new name this summer.

"We were going down the I-90 freeway and there's a sign that says Freya and Thor exit," said Zeilfelder. "[Boyd] was like, 'I kind of like that name, if I had a business I would name it Freya and Thor.'"

After that, the couple decided to name the café Freya and Thor, for the Norse goddess of love and beauty and the god of thunder.

Despite the name change, Boyd said the business will be largely unchanged at first.

"We are really excited to continue the tradition that William and Linda have started. They have built an amazing thing up there," said Boyd.

Boyd will start her silk-screening business on site and local artists, including William Roach, are invited to continue putting their work in the gallery.

And Linda and William Roach been helping the couple along the way. Linda Roach had one piece of advice for Boyd and Zeilfelder to be successful.

"I say to just give a Cape Breton welcome, a smile, and the rest pretty much falls into place."