Safehouse might sound like a name born out of the pandemic, but the trendy café, which opened in 2016, has always had a sense of community — it just has even more significance in the present climate.
“Before the pandemic, we were a full-service espresso bar...People would come all day long, get coffee, sit down, do their work, whatever — that whole industry is gone,” explains Tyler Kostman, owner of the Dundas and Brock shop. “We're kind of moulding our way into a community-oriented coffee-shop-slash-grocer that also has a little bit more than that, where we are involved in the community.”
The pandemic may have prompted Safehouse to diversify their offering, but Kostman thinks that they probably should have been doing it since the beginning.
“My girlfriend and I built the grocery side of things, mainly to stay alive. We're big food people anyway, so it was natural to do that.” Being a huge proponent of farmers’ markets and buying organic, Kostman was able to procure some interesting products through his network of contacts, with a focus on repping Toronto brands and makers.
The result is a coffee shop with a local grocery feel where regulars can pick up most of the items on their shopping list — plus a few delicious impulse purchases. Fill up your basket with organic shiitake mushrooms from Kendal Hills Farm, Mattachioni pizza, goodies from The Daily Dumpling Wonton Co. and maybe even a dried bouquet from Crown Flora to, y’know, make you feel something in an otherwise bleary pandemic.
While waiting for a return to pre-pandemic livelihood, Kostman is looking at ways to redefine the space: "Maybe not an art gallery, but we do have plans to get our liquor license."
Meanwhile, local art hanging on the walls, virtual DJ sets on Twitch and general “community vibes” hope to tide us over until better times arrive.
"We get our coffee from three providers. Propeller which is in the area; Habit Coffee Club; and Java Roasters, which is roasted by two women in the east end. We really like that aspect of not using just a singular roaster and having a multi-faceted coffee shop."
Safehouse: Monthly fundraisers
“Since the lockdown, we’re doing a fundraiser every month," says Kostman. Safehouse has raised funds for Parkdale Food Bank and Breakaway, which offers treatment services for people living with addiction. Fellow Dundas West businesses like Cry Baby Gallery have donated cocktail kits to the cause.
Safehouse: Locally-sourced fare
Safehouse gets seafood — like Nova Scotia wild scallops and smoked salmon from B.C. — from Fisherfolk, a high-quality, conscientious Canadian fishery. Elsewhere, you'll find heritage pork sausages and bacon from Huber Farms in Wellington County, and pantry staples like butter and milk from Sheldon Creek.
1615 Dundas St. W.; safehouseog.com