Big city cafe vibes in Durham

Nicole Morais sells Crave Doughnuts at Deadly Grounds Cafe in Courtice. Photo credit: Tara Sottile

Planning to open a new café is never easy especially when you leave your steady career behind. David Purchase and his wife Lorena, the owners of Brock St. Espresso in downtown Whitby, left their careers as a crane operator and a nurse to bring big city café vibes to Durham Region.

Brock St. Espresso opened up a few months ago. It’s one of a number of independent cafes trying to bring something that’s not fast food to Durham Region.

“People are sick of Tim Hortons and Starbucks,” Purchase says. “Tim Hortons is no longer a Canadian run company, and their quality has gone down.”

David Purchase shows off his cafe, Brock St. Espresso in Whitby. Photo credit: Tara Sottile

To make sure their customers are getting the best quality, they decided to bring in high-end coffee beans and upscale foods made by local bakeries.

Another café, Deadly Grounds in Courtice, opened a year ago. Co-owner Brad Mavin spent five years planning the coffee shop after establishing the Deadly Grounds Coffee company in Canada, the first outside the U.S. Deadly Grounds is a horror-movie themed café.

“We aren’t small town Durham Region anymore, people don’t want to have to go into the city for something. They want to do their stuff locally,” Mavin says.

Although Mavin and his business partner have been planning Deadly Grounds Café for the past four years, they wanted to grow the coffee bean company first. They wanted to be established before they expanded to the café.

Mavin says they cater to a unique cliental with the horror theme. “People want something different than the every day,” he says.

Their customers are often looking for something of higher quality, knowing the café has its own coffee brand.

“It’s having a very positive impact on the community. People either think it’s weird or they like it,” Mavin says.

On weekends, local bakery Crave Doughnuts comes in to sell its handmade creations. The team-up started a year ago. It was supposed to be a pop-up but people loved it so much they made it permanent.

“We’re using it to build the knowledge that they’re here. People come from all over because they know the brand from before,” Mavin says.

Teaming up has boosted traffic for both. On weekends the doughnuts often sell out by mid-morning.

“The doughnuts opened us up to a whole new cliental, they would have never known we were here if it weren’t for the doughnuts,” says Mavin.

He has advice for anyone thinking opening a café is easy. “If you think it’s going to cost you fifty thousand, make sure you have one hundred thousand or double whatever you expect because that’s how it turns out,” he says.

Deadly Grounds was set to open Halloween of 2017, but didn’t open until February of 2018 because of backlogs and issues. During that time, they were still paying for the café space but they weren’t making any money.

The owners of Brock St. Espresso and Deadly Grounds found an opportunity to bring something that was missing to the growing Durham Region.

With the popularity of the cafes growing, they say social media is becoming an important part of their marketing.

“All social media platforms are integral for the café, especially going forward,” Purchase says. With a limited advertising budget, social media is a place for cafes such as theirs to reach people who may have never heard of them.

Mavin says social media marketing is the perfect way to get their names out in the community.

Deadly Grounds Café and Brock St. Espresso are both planning on growing their companies. With the popularity they’ve both gained, the cafes believe they both want to expand and open new locations when the time is right.