Solstice reopens its doors with music on its mind

Cafe celebrating 10th anniversary and grand reopening Sept.6

David Cardinal and Meg Iredale-Gray relax in the new patio area.

Local musicians, songwriters and spoken-word performers now have a sparkling and caffeinated new venue to call home.

For the last 10 years, the Solstice Café has been a downtown institution: a place to grab your morning cup of organic get-up-and-go, a meeting place for local grassroots organizations, and a music venue. Now, it’s finally getting a well-deserved upgrade.

Since Solstice opened its doors in 2001, little has changed. Owner David Cardinal started the café for the same reason many café owners do: his love of coffee. But he also started it because he was frequently disappointed by coffee houses that were primarily interested in selling mugs and paraphernalia instead of producing a good, ethical cup of coffee, and providing a comfortable place to drink it.

“A lot of the challenge here is trying to focus on ethics,” says Cardinal, “the environmental impact of what we try and do.”

But providing ethically-sourced coffee, along with organic and locally grown foods, has kept the café on a tight budget, which made renovations a challenge. Cardinal found the help he needed in long-time employee Meg Iredale-Gray.

Iredale-Gray bought half the business, allowing the Solstice to make a few changes: a bigger and better kitchen, some new appliances, a new floor and a fresh coat of paint. Gone are the worn armchairs and sofas; replaced with new chairs and tables to increase seating capacity.

“We were closed for 3 weeks and that can be really hard on staff,” says Iredale-Gray, “but instead of complaining or quitting, they came and helped with the renovations, volunteered their time, and had a great time doing it.”

The most obvious change is the addition of a patio made from recycled materials. It took nearly a month to complete. “It takes a while [to build something] when you’re looking for salvaged material,” says Cardinal. But now, on clement days, customers will be able to comfortably sit outside and enjoy the fresh air with their coffee.

With renovations complete, Solstice is looking forward to resuming its position as a community meeting place and a music venue.

“We’re trying to get back into having shows regularly,” says Iredale-Gray. “The renovation was a bit of a hiccup for us.” There’s little doubt that artists and community groups alike will find the bright and open interior inviting.

Solstice Café officially reopens Sept. 6 with a birthday bash, featuring musical and spoken word performances by O’mally, Bog River and The Roadside Dogs. They’re also taking advantage of the re-opening to experiment with a liquor license.

“It would be nice to be able to sit and drink a local beer and listen to music,” says Iredale-Gray. M

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