Dave Duguay never really left downtown.
Sure, he sold his lease and shut down his Blackwater café on Christina Street last year.
But a month later he found a new location and has spent the past 18 months doing major remodeling. This month, he will open the new Blackwater Coffee Company at 177 Christina St. and intends it to be a gathering place for downtown, serving coffee, tea and light meals.
“For me, it’s all about greeting a customer and great service,” he says. “When a customer comes in, I treat them like they walked into my home.”
Duguay moved to Sarnia in 2010 with more than 20 years’ barista experience in Toronto. He and his wife, Alyssa, bought the Blackwater Coffee and Tea Company and operated it until 2014 when Duguay says he received an offer for the space that he couldn’t refuse.
“But I kept my roaster and my name,” he said.
Within weeks, he was checking out an espresso machine stored in a vacant building across the street from his former café.
“I liked the space right away,” Duguay said. But it had been vacant for years and needed renovations. The terrazzo flooring by the street still bore the name of Arliss Shoes, which operated there decades before.
As he started the renovations, taking on a lot of the work himself, he decided he would try to repurpose some of the building materials.
The original granite and brass façade was removed by his landlord, Roy Botma, and saved for construction of the new bar. A new façade was built of stone and a garage door installed to be opened in good weather.
It wasn’t easy finding someone to cut the granite into 60-pound slabs for the bar, but a former customer eventually volunteered to help. That kind of support happened a lot during renovations, according to Duguay.
“My customers really came through,” he said. “They helped paint the walls and build the bar. When I ran into a problem, they came up with solutions.”
His original roaster from across the street is sitting prominently in the new location. The red and chrome Ambex can roast 18 pounds of coffee at a time and sets the tone for the entire café.
Duguay calls his décor “modern industrial” to explain the funky LED light bulbs hanging by six-foot cords from the lofty ceiling, and the repurposed wooden pallets he sanded and Varathaned to form the bar walls.
The new Blackwater Coffee Company will feature four distinctive styles of coffee, all using freshly roasted beans from Africa and South America. They include traditional drip; specialties like espresso and lattes; siphon filter brew; and cold coffee from a drip tower at the end of the bar.
“When my customers come in, I’ll have their preferences recorded and will know what kind of coffee they like and at what temperature,” he said.
A limited menu of Paninis, salads and soups will be provided by Personal Touch Catering on Mitton Street, while desserts, muffins and pastries will be delivered by the Ruthless Baker, also on Mitton.
Duguay said he doesn’t want to have a kitchen at his new café and prefers selling food from other establishments.
“These are two great places with certified kitchens that will keep my overhead and my prices down.”
Duguay doesn’t have a firm date for the opening in November. Watch his Facebook page (Blackwater Coffee Company) or his website (blackwatercoffee.ca) for details.