By Mary Elizabeth O’Toole
The Lawrencetown Beach Café is located in the historic MacDonald House, a hillside site with spectacular views that often include surfers and kiteboarders.
The Lawrencetown Beach Café is located in the historic MacDonald House, a hillside site with spectacular views that often include surfers and kiteboarders. There is a bright and inviting dining area—but due to COVID-19 safety protocols, the cafe is currently limited to take out service. Instead of seating, it is filled with plants and works by local artists.
Owner Samual McKenna opened the café in summer of 2019. “This was the home of the Heron’s Nest Tea Room for many years,” McKenna said in a recent interview. “When they had to close suddenly, the Board of the MacDonald House was eager to replace it for the summer season. I was one of the people that they approached. Just before that, I had worked with my friend, Danny Martin, to open Cottage Café in Dartmouth, so I knew how much work it was to do that type of start, especially as a solo-owner. I hesitated for a minute, but I loved the location and the community feel of the businesses here, so I was hooked. We had our soft-opening within a few weeks.“
The café continues to evolve in response both to changing environment and customer requests. McKenna explains, “I started simple and have tried to grow in a controlled manner. The first thing people wanted was good quality coffee, so we did that before we added anything. Then we started with simple baked goods, then an espresso machine.
“My employees, especially Kate Duncombe, have been a big part of the change and vision. We try to keep expanding. When people ask for new things, I ask myself ‘Is it realistic?’ ‘Does it make economic sense for us?’ ‘Is it environmentally responsible and sustainable?’ If anything meets all those criteria, I try it.”
McKenna has plans for more new offerings. “I spent the quarantine at our family farm and that gave me a chance to slow down and do some thinking about the directions for the café. We have a bit of a food desert here and it can be hard to get fresh, so I want to have more of a market style. We already sell some produce like vegetables and fresh eggs. We are going to expand that even more next spring. We also have a selection of ready-to-cook items like Shepard’s or chicken pies with as much local meat and vegetables as possible.”
Sustainability is a priority for McKenna who says ,“We are very conscious of being environmentally responsible. We compost everything we can and purchase with sustainability in mind. Starting this spring we will get a portion of our produce from our family’s spray-free farm in Tatamagouche. It’s also really important to me to support local farmers. Instead of having one supplier, I have maybe 15 smaller producers. It’s more work but so worth it because the food is fresher and we can more easily collaborate.
“As an example, this year we worked closely with the Seaforth Market Garden just down the road. This was their first season and they were not sure what or how much they would produce. I bought – or bartered for –all their surplus. For 2021, we’re going to work together to plan complementary planting.”
If you’re looking to get a lot of holiday shopping done with one stop, grab a coffee at Lawrencetown Beach Café, and then check out the other businesses in the building, including a surf shop, an art shop and gallery, and a vintage clothing store. For hours at the café, call (902) 802-5089.