Found Trinity Bellwoods
Found Coffee is an Aussie-style coffee shop with this park-adjacent location in addition to their College St. spot and another in Guelph.
The group of cafes has actually grown from just one after Found was first opened on College back in 2020, when Leighton Walters took over the former Hopper space.
"I was silly enough to think it was all over," Walters tells blogTO of opening on August 1, 2020.
After working in the specialty coffee industry in Australia and Indonesia for 20 years, Walters moved to Toronto in 2019.
Sadly, like many, he lost his job when lockdowns hit, but his move to Toronto also brought him a major personal gain.
"I was also fortunate enough to meet a special someone the week after I moved here in 2019," says Walters. "It seemed like a natural, yet incredibly scary, decision to sell everything I owned in Australia and start my dream little coffee shop and hopefully create a future here."
As an Aussie himself, coffee is important to Walters, and he compares its importance in Australian culture to hockey here in Canada.
He even says brewing coffee at home is far less common in that country, where people all have their local coffee shops where they know their baristas by name.
Australia is also where the flat white you can now get at Found originated, and apparently the one place where Starbucks has all but disappeared.
In addition to flat whites, the cafe also does classic Aussie cafe fare like smashed avo toasts and steel cut oats, and sells specialty products popular in Australia like Vegemite.
Not longer after opening that first location on College, Walters already had his eye on this specific location, but figured it would take some serious serendipity to actually open up at this space near Bellwoods.
"I had just sold my little apartment in Australia in hopes of starting a second Found location," says Watlers.
"I looked across the road to this cute little corner shop on this side street and thought, that location would be a freaking dream, but there's not a snowflake's chance in hell we can afford this…plus it was not available, not for lease, just a cool locally loved general store."
That store was Lucky Penny, and it turned out that within about a year an agent was calling Found to tell them that the address at 189 Shaw was up for grabs.
"After picking my jaw off the floor, I dropped everything to meet with the owner," says Walters. "The owner was open to selling their business to the right tenant as they owned the building and wanted to ensure the tenant was the right fit. So after some back and forth, we agreed to purchase the shop."
On January 24, 2022, this Bellwoods location soft opened. Walters worked with Amanda Hugessen Design, an Australian interior designer based in Toronto, to achieve an Australian coffee shop vibe in the space.
The only part of Walters' dream that didn't pan out was thinking the worst was behind them, when in reality the effects of lockdowns and restrictions still continue to impact all of us to this day.
"I didn't realize two and a half years later, we would still be dealing with supply shortages, out of control inflation," says Walters.
"Overcoming a lot of the obstacles we've faced was to ensure we are keeping the main thing the main thing, and focusing more on taking care of people and protecting the integrity of our product, and in turn, we have received such overwhelming support."
He also says a refusal to compromise by seeking cheaper or easier options is key to the success of Found.
For example, they bring in Pottery for the Planet handmade reusables from Australia, use real melted chocolate in their hot chocolate and mochas, and use real vanilla extract instead of artificial syrup.
About six months ago, Found opened their third location in Guelph, and are starting a sustainable coffee roasting facility, tasting bar and coffee lab based out of that location in the coming months.
Walters plans to continue to open as many more locations as possible to keep growing the Found community, but these reliable first Toronto locations are a great start, including this charming little parkside pocket.