Editor’s note: In our Fall 2011 issue, “Hungry City”, Liz Clayton and Sean Waisglass took a look at neighbourhood coffee shops and cafes. Over the next few weeks Spacing Toronto will be expanding on those articles, exploring restaurants and cafes in our city that are about more than just business. By creating open community spaces and employing ethical and local practices, they’re bringing people together with that most intrinsic enjoyment: food.
Who they are:
Outhouse cafe, owned and run by William Ashman, is energetic, homey, and resplendent with the savory scent of Ashman’s ingenious sandwiches and soups. And, not to mention, coffee; very good coffee. Ashman has striven to create a space that hearkens to Sunday’s in the family kitchen, that adheres to ethical practices, and where every dish and drink comes with a whimsical name and back story.
“When I was first looking for a space for Outhouse, I didn’t want to be on the normal path anywhere. In fact I wanted to be in an area where the area was evolving. And, the Jane and Annette corridor is an area that’s very underdeveloped, especially considering that you have a wide demographic [of residents.] You can’t really pinpoint a specific person that will be at the corner of Jane and Annette,” said Ashman. “Here you have Babypoint across the street, which are families that have been living in the community for over 30 years, you have families who are just moving into the area on the other side of Jane street, you have the Junction which is a very artsy crowd, and Bloor West Village which is the Ukranian community. So, what we’re seeing is a need for new community hubs.”
What they’re all about:
“Some of the things that have stayed since day one are fresh food, local sourcing, and trying as much as possible to reduce any waste to remain a green company. There’s two factors that we guide ourselves with for our sources: that it’s local and the business has established their own sense of principles that are aligned with those of Outhouse. That being, a passion for what their doing, good relationship standards, and ethics.”
Outhouse sources their coffee from Rufino espresso in Concord, Ontario. Additionally, Ashman supports other local start-up businesses in the form of all his sweets coming from OMGBakedGoodness, a Dundas Street West bakery.
“Most importantly, I find that all of the distributors and companies that we work with have a sense of pride in what they’re doing, and it trickles down… I feel that beyond things being green or organic, there’s something very important about the food that we eat and how it is processed and how we are presenting it. I’d like to think that Outhouse is part of a larger movement, and that is eating passionately.”
How they connect with the community:
“The business really has expanded in accordance with what the customers are looking for. By developing relationships with everyone in the community, it helps me better understand what they’re looking for. I started off as a vegetarian cafe, and that lasted for about 90 days because no one really wanted vegetarian food,” laughs Ashman. “I had more strollers coming in that people, so I had to restructure how I had the chairs set up.”
Ashman also supports local artists in the space by displaying their work and hosting gallery viewings. Instead of keeping the profits from such events for the cafe, Ashman often donates the money to the artist to assist in getting their work professionally framed and displayed.
“Outhouse for me, was really just about creating an outside house for the community to be able to come to have an extension from their home. I have customers who come to me and say: ‘I never would have met people from my community if I had never come here.’ And that means so much to me because this community is so full of amazing people,” said Ashman.