Toronto bar is lending space to an out of work woman's survival project
A Toronto bar has teamed up with a jobless Toronto woman to offer her space for the city's latest survival project: a no-frills pourover coffee shop.
It's called Two Hot Babes, named for operator Nancy Silverman and her dog Penny Lane (AKA Pez), and their motto is "It's not fancy, it's dire."
"They are not coffee impresarios or business moguls. They don't know everything about anything, but they do know a little bit about a lot of things — so they've put their heads together to bring you a coffee shop that makes a mean cup, in hopes you can help them pay for their lives," reads the Two Hot Babes site.
While the coffee may not be "fancy" as it's pourover only, they do use high quality de Mello beans. Pourover, spiced apple cider and loose leaf tea are all $4.
Salted dark chocolate chunk cookies made by Silverman and dog treats are also available, as well as coffee retail items like bags of de Mello beans, Hario drippers and filters.
Like many, baking has been one of her quarantine hobbies, and she hopes to offer sourdough too, though she may need to hire an employee for that.
"Our aim with this project was to create a low-overhead analog coffee shop, no espresso, in a sub-leased space from a bar or restaurant that had been hit hard by the pandemic," says Silverman.
"This way, we could help a struggling business pay their rent and encourage more foot traffic through their doors, while at once supporting ourselves with a new project in an affordable space. It's a perfect symbiotic relationship."
The sub-leased space is in Bloorcourt's Wenona Lodge, a craft beer bar and comfort food restaurant that's been operating on a takeout and bottle shop basis, utilizing their large garage door front window for the purpose.
Not only are they supporting Silverman, they've also lent their space to many local artisans for a mini market with candles, tees, jewellery, prints and more.
"Nancy approached us about the idea a couple of weeks ago, and it was a no-brainer for us. We have always been community-focused, and creative about how we can utilize our space to make room for local artists," says Wenona Lodge owner Faye Blais.
"We were actually in the middle of developing our Galleria Wenona, a local artist market launching Dec. 3, so the timing was perfect."
Silverman, a member of the severely impacted fitness and gym industry, is one of many hit hard by pandemic lockdowns.
"This project was born out of absolute desperation and necessity. Before COVID-19 hit Toronto, I had been teaching yoga full-time for nearly 10 years. Since the initial lockdown in March, the yoga landscape changed drastically. Studios suffered financially, online classes became less popular and there was much less work to go around," says Silverman.
"Financially, I needed a solution. So I asked myself what other skills I had in my toolbox that could help me survive. I've worked as a barista in several coffee shops over the years, I've managed businesses, and I have a flair for baking and all things crafty. I sat down with my dog to have a good think, and Two Hot Babes was born."
A bar and a coffee shop may not seem like the most natural partners, but when you think about it, it makes sense: other bars that are completely unable to operate as normal during lockdown such as Shameful Tiki and Grand Trunk have pivoted to more daytime-oriented, food-focused projects like a takeout chicken tenders joint and brunch.
"Given the pandemic and recent lockdown, joining forces makes sense now more than ever. Two Hot Babes has an excellent setup," says Blais. "It's a perfect fit for our vibe, and so great to have energy in the space in the mornings before our bottle shop opens."
Like Grand Trunk, which is able to operate for longer hours by opening in the morning to serve brunch and then staying open as a bottle shop until nighttime, the usefulness of the bar's space can be capitalized on during normally dormant hours.
"Wenona has been a staple hangout spot in my community and friend group for awhile. I knew one of the employees at the bar, and he connected me with Phil and Faye, the owners. They were immediately receptive to collaboration and welcomed me warmly into their space," says Silverman.
"Truly, partnering with Wenona and creating the coffee shop was a seamless process. No hurdles, no snags. It felt right from the very first moment."
Two Hot Babes is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends, while Wenona Lodge's bottle shop is open Thursday to Monday from noon to 8 p.m.
Midday overlapping hours can drive up business for both projects, the new project reigniting support for the older one.
"I don’t know if this will be my 'forever job,' but right now it is essential to my survival during the pandemic: financially, creatively, and emotionally," says Silverman.
"It's helping pay the bills, for sure. But it is also providing me with a creative outlet and a means of self expression, a structured schedule, a way of interacting with people safely. It's keeping me sane. Honestly, when I say it's a survival project, I mean it quite literally."
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