I haven’t been past the Blue Building for several months, so it was a nice surprise to drop in for coffee and a veggie panini at Andrews on 8th. Don’t let the unfinished paint job fool you; it’s a major work in progress by Brad Hodson, owner of Valley Estates, a make-your-own-wine store that shares the commercial block with the cafe.
Brad’s been slaving over the 1912 building since June last year. He has stripped off the aluminum cladding at the front and uncovered the original pediment. He’s put in large windows along St. Andrews, refinished the original fir floor, and put in an open concept production area with bottling stations for Valley Estates, his make-your-own wine business.
Eventually, all the blue marine paint will be stripped away and replaced with a coat of Strathcona red paint trimmed with Victorian peridot and Edwardian buff accents.
As part of his deal with the City of North Vancouver, Brad had to take out a heritage designation on the building. And, while that opens up some opportunities for funding and grants, it also puts him at the mercy of the City and its crazy timetable.
“I know a lot about heritage and I’m very motivated to bring it back to what I think it would have been like in 1912,” he says.
The cafe officially opened April 25 and its run by Joanne Laubauch and her partner Brenda Snowden, who was born and raised down the street and remembers coming to the building as a kid to pick up the groceries.
Joanne and Brenda have run the Banqueting Table out of the Hillside Baptist Church in Lynn Valley for the past 13 years. The non-profit company employs single mothers wanting to get back into the workforce and gives them a job and the chance to gain some skills in catering. As far as culinary experience, their motto is: “if you can cut a carrot, you can work with us.”
The non-profit has grown too big for the Church digs and now they are running the catering business from the kitchen. The menu is in flux, says Joanne—when I was there it was an assortment of sandwiches, grilled cheese on thick slabs of bread, strawberry and cherry scones and cookies.
The café, says Joanne, is also a work in progress. The plan is to build slowly by word of mouth. That shouldn’t be a problem–the cafe was packed on a Wednesday lunch time. The coffee’s great, the food reasonably priced, and there are tables and chairs out the front for sunny days.
Eve Lazarus is a freelance writer with a passion for history and heritage houses. She is the author of At Home with History: the secrets of Greater Vancouver’s Heritage Houses, a member of the North Vancouver District Heritage Commission, and blogs obsessively about buildings and their genealogies at www.blog.evelazarus.com. Her next book with house stories of Victoria’s murders, ghosts, brothels, artists and sea captains (not necessarily in that order) will be published this fall.