Take a Look Inside Gastown’s New Kafka’s Coffee

The new, 750 sqft Kafka’s Coffee address is almost ready on the ground floor of the reimagined heritage Ormidale Building at 151 West Hastings Street, and the colourful thing really is something to behold.

The third location of the local chainlet is set to open before the middle of February. I recently met up with the owner, Aaron Kafka, who once again let me have a look in on progress. The last time I toured the place with him – back in August of 2018 – it was a total shambles. Things were just getting started and it was hard to make heads or tails of if. Here’s a bit of what I wrote back then

Usually when I walk into a construction site I can use my imagination to see the end results. This is especially the case when the owner and/or the designer is next to me explaining the lay of it. I’ve done it many hundreds of times. But it didn’t work here; I’d known the exterior of the old Ormidale since I was a kid, but the part of it where the new Kafka’s is going had me genuinely flummoxed. The space was crowded with temporary drywall hoarding and there was a gigantic hole in the middle of the room that dropped down to a lower floor. Aaron patiently tried to explain the layout to me, even taking me outside again so we could start the tour from scratch. Did I get it now? Hell no.

Inside the almost finished Kafka’s Coffee on W. Hastings | Photo: Scout Magazine

Which is wonderful. After doing many hundreds of raw space walk-throughs like this, I’d prefer a surprise or two come opening day. I suspect that’ll be the case here. The four-storey, Edwardian Ormidale (built in the uncommon Richardsonian Romanesque style) was recently completely gutted, its interior replaced with a Class A building just inside the staid, old facade. Those responsible – B+H Architects – are award-winners when it comes to the tricky task of reimagining, renewing and repurposing old buildings by building new ones inside the old ones. In other words, what you see from the street  will be in stark contrast to the 21st century that awaits inside.

The Ormidale is now home base for Spaces, a newfangled co-working office company. Kafka’s has the frontage, with 16 seats split between the beautifully curved west and east windows. Aaron told me that he hopes to be submitting drawings for permitting this week or the next. Scott Cohen is doing the interior design, which should prove interesting (see also Nook, The Acorn, Les Faux Bourgeois, etc.). Considering the fact that Aaron has only just opened his second cafe on Great Northern Way, I doubt he’s in a frenzied rush.

Over a year later, it’s time has come, and there’s plenty of Scott Cohen design DNA evident throughout, from the cool colours to the sexy curves (and never mind the bright and wavy ceiling installation in the foyer — I don’t think that’s his). The good-looking 16-seater is just waiting on its final permit before it pulls its first official shots of espresso. According to Aaron, he’s eyeing February 10th as D-Day. Take a closer look inside…

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