Sumach Espresso: there goes the neighbourhood…finally!

sumach-espresso

ESPRESSO EXPRESSION: Karen Kucherawy, wife of Corktown Correspondent Dennis Kucherawy, enjoys a cup of joe at Sumach Espresso, Corktown’s newest coffee shop. Photo by Dennis Kucherawy.

By Dennis Kucherawy

I love coffee, I love tea

I love the java jive and it loves me

Coffee and tea and the java and me

A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup (boy!) 

– Java Jive, Manhattan Transfer

At last, after 30 years of living in Corktown, Karen, my wife, and I are thrilled we can get a great cupppa joe in our ‘hood.  And not only in our ‘hood, mind you, but less than 10 doors up the street.

Indeed, Sumach Espresso could not have opened fast enough for us, even though Karen is a tea drinker who loves to slowly sip her Earl Grey.

So, we had the honor of being the new café’s first customers when Megan opened the door and cheerfully greeted us at 8 a.m. last Saturday.  Karen ordered her usual with a yummy, her words, blueberry/banana scone and I, patriotic fellow that I am, enjoyed an Americano with a scrumptious chocolate chip cookie.

“I love java, sweet and hot
Whoops Mr. Moto, I’m a coffee pot
Shoot the pot and I’ll pour me a shot
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup!”

By Monday afternoon, locals from 90 Sumach, Wascana Ave., Shuter Street and surrounding neighborhoods — including new condos in Regent Park — streamed in, almost every other person exclaiming “You’re open!”

“I love the look of it, the aesthetic,” gushed one woman.  “It’s nice to have something like this so close to home.”

Her friend agreed, saying it was a great addition to the neighborhood.  “Until now, I had to walk to King St. E. to find something comparable.”

By Sunday afternoon, owner Mike Cullen and, his baristas Megan, Michelle. Margot and Lindsay, opened the east windows fronting Sumach.  They rolled them up like garage doors to let the fresh air and sunlight pour in.  Customers sat inside, or wandered, cradling their drinks, across the street to the Sumach-Shuter parkette with its verdant trees tinged with orange and red, a hint of the fall colors soon to come.  Some were families with young children and strollers.  The patio on the north side, facing Shuter Street, isn’t complete yet.

This isn’t just another café, like Toronto’s thousands with their java jive.  It immediately has become a neighborhood centre.

Megan, Michelle, Margot and Mike … mmmm.  How’s that for marketing?  It makes you want to take a magic market and add “mmmm” before the words Sumach Espresso and its image of a comforting beige coffee mug painted on the south wall’s white tiles:

Mmmm SUMACH L’ESPRESSO

(the L in L’Espresso is for Lindsay)

This is Mike Cullen’s second café.  His first is the popular Broadview Espresso that he opened seven years ago in 2008, located about two blocks north of the subway station.

During the five-and-a-half months of construction of his Broadview site, Cullen got to know his neighbors while shoveling, hand mixing cement and so on.

The secret of his success is simple, the 41-year-old entrepreneur confides:  “I’m open to anything.  My store is for the community.  I’ll listen to all kinds of event proposals.  I just don’t’ want to organize them.”

He’s hosted rotating art exhibitions on his walls and a comedy show as well as musical performances, a favorite of his since he loves music.

“Oh slip me a slug from the wonderful mug
And I’ll cut a rug just snug in a jug
A sliced up onion and a raw one
Draw one –
Waiter, waiter, percolator…”

Sumach Espresso, at 118 Sumach Street, the southwest corner of Shuter and Sumach, is located where the New Regent variety store was.  Alex Bartlett, a noted Toronto landscape design architect, renovated the building with living quarters for his young family on the second floor and a rental apartment.  Cullen leapt at the opportunity to rent the main floor.

In addition to basic, single shot espresso drinks, Cullen presently sells delicious pastries from Jules Patisserie on Mt. Pleasant.  Mike considers their croissants the best in Toronto.

Boston bean (soy beans)
Green bean (cabbage and greens)
I’m not keen about a bean
Unless it is a chili chili bean (boy!)

The café opens at 7 a.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. on weekends.  He’s not sure about closing time yet, but it won’t be before 5 p.m.  or if people are still there.  On Sunday, he accommodated guests by staying open until they left at 5:45 p.m.

It’s only the beginning.  Mike’s hired a local artist to paint murals on his grey walls based on historic photos of Sumach and Shuter Streets and other Corktown locales he has sourced.  If that doesn’t work out, he plans to just mount and hang the photos himself.

For now, this is a soft opening.  He has not made up his mind for an official one.  (I’m not big on frills,” he says.)  He and Alex are talking about  “a little something,” perhaps staying open Hallowe’en so that parents can drop by — with their children, if they like — for some post trick-or-treating cheer.

One tantalizing temptation Mike may offer soon – Affogato.  It’s vanilla gelato topped with a shot of hot espresso.

Yum, affogato. The diet?  Fuggeddabboutitt!

“I love coffee, I love tea
I love the java jive and it loves me
Coffee and tea and the java and me
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, yeah!

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