Sudbury

Making vintage new again: Cafe Obscura opens in downtown Sudbury

David Wiewel, owner of the newly-opened Cafe Obscura in downtown Sudbury, said he was “skeptical” about opening up his cafe in the building which housed Gardner Motors many years ago.

One of Sudbury's newest downtown coffee shops has a special treat for vintage camera lovers

David Wiewel recently opened Cafe Obscura, a downtown cafe that combines coffee with vintage cameras. (Peter Williams/CBC)

David Wiewel, owner of the newly-opened Cafe Obscura in downtown Sudbury, said he was "skeptical" about opening up his cafe in the building that housed Gardner Motors many years ago.

But a brief walk through the Elm Street venue— the first Chrysler dealership in Canada, Wiewel says—  changed his mind.

"This is the original sales office, wavy glass, art deco woodwork and bulkheads. It fits in with what I'm doing."

What Cafe Obscura is doing is different than any traditional cafe in Sudbury. Wiewel says alongside selling Old Rock Coffee and treats from Beards' Bakery and PInchman's, he offers vintage cameras, new film and film-developing service.

So far, Wiewel said, the response from coffee and camera lovers has been enthusiastic. 

"People are loving the concept, and I've had people come in, not even looking at buying a camera," Wiewel said.

"But they look at it and then they're asking questions, and I have books that they can read about it, and they ended up [buying] the camera."

Wiewel, who in the past worked as a newspaper photographer and carpenter, didn't expect to open a cafe, but after selling his own photography and running a business, was ready for another entrepreneurial challenge. 

Wiewel said that as a film developer, he's already seen some special things. 

"The most interesting one I've had yet was from the young fellow in his twenties," Wiewel said. "He bought a Russian camera. And it had a roll of film in it still that had been exposed."

"He said 'do you think there's gonna be anything on it?' And it looked really old. And I said 'I don't know, but I'll give it a try.'" 

Wiewel said he knew of a special development technique for old film, letting it sit untouched in the developer for an hour.

"Lo and behold there were images of a Russian fellow and his little boy," he said. "It looked like it was around Halloween because they had a pumpkin with a face drawn on it."

"But it was in winter, either either early fall or maybe it was spring if it wasn't Halloween with the pumpkin. It was incredibly fascinating to us to see and I'm totally blown away by it."

And introducing vintage cameras allows Wiewel to help contribute to keeping interest in the craft alive.

"So many of the people bringing these in are kids, essentially, and I can say that because I'm becoming an old man now."

"I think that can be kind of my legacy is to help keep film going in Sudbury."

For years, David Wiewel has been behind the camera as a professional photographer, photo journalist, and artist. These days you can find him behind the counter of a unique, new coffee shop he has just opened called Cafe Obscura. And when he's not serving up a latte or espresso, he can be found tinkering with vintage film cameras or developing rolls of film in his darkroom right on site. Coffee and cameras are the focus of this new enterprise in a storefront space on Elm Street which David told me has its own unique history in the downtown core. 8:39

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