Mah Milk Bar is the joint effort of two cafe pros: Harry Swinburn, from Melbourne, Australia, and Vancouverite Maggie Campbell.
In Australia (where Swinburn is from, and Campbell has worked) a milk bar is a go-to spot for daily basics, synonymous with a corner store. And that’s precisely what Mah Milk Bar hopes to become on the corner of Victoria Drive and Grant Street, starting today. I stopped in to take a look around when doors quietly opened this morning…
Both the freshly painted exterior and the retooled interior of the neighbourhood cafe immediately set it apart from its predecessor (South China Seas Trading Co.) Mah’s use of a soft and light colour palette, uncluttered aesthetic and generously sized windows create an overall fresh and airy feeling. The layout of the 550-square-foot space has been reorganized in a way that provides seating for six without impeding the traffic flow of customers popping in to pick up a handful of provisions.
As I enter, owners Harry Swinburn and Maggie Campbell are preparing for their first full day. The service counter (and the espresso machine) are at the ready. I jumped in with a Melbourne-style latte (strong, milky and served in a glass), a vegetarian breakfast sandwich (egg, Macedonian feta, beet relish, arugula on a toasted bun) and a chocolate chip & walnut cookie. All three items were fantastic (I would even go so far as to wager that the sandwich will become a contender for one of the best breakfast sandwiches in the city).
While the fridges and shelves are only partially stocked at the moment (they’ll fill in over the next few weeks), a diverse selection of small-batch items is already available. These include frozen perogies from Modern Perogie, meat pies from Aussie Pie Guy, Booch Queen kombucha, kimchi, and hot sauce, as well as small-batch chocolate, Mumgry nut butter, cashew dips, gluten-free crackers, salt, and even dish soap – not a one-stop convenience store inventory, but a well-considered pantry with some fun options for special occasions.
If this is the first you are hearing of this project, have a read of what Scout published earlier this summer:
Mah stands for “Maggie and Harry”: Maggie Campbell and Harry Swinburn, owners of Mah Milk Bar. “What’s a ‘Milk Bar’?” you ask. In Australia (where Swinburn is from, and Campbell has worked), it’s a go-to spot for daily basics, synonymous with a corner store. And that’s precisely what Mah Milk Bar hopes to become: somewhere for people to nip in to grab milk or bread, or the eggs you ran out of halfway through making your breakfast pancakes. But the vision for Mah doesn’t stop at convenience; the deeper motivation here is to create a warm and welcoming space for the local community to congregate.
“We want to create a warm, welcoming space that offers all the conveniences of a small grocery store with the coziness of a local coffee shop,” says Campbell. “We will have fresh, high-quality espresso coffee and made-to-order breakfast and lunch options. We also want to give a platform to locally owned and produced brands and add value to the already amazing East Van community.”
Though the space is tiny, it’s still big enough to fit six indoor seats. A small North-facing patio area along Grant St. will offer up additional spots via built-in bench seating, where visitors can relax. As the duo is aiming to open in a couple of months, they’re already working on their stock selection to fill the compact store.
“We’ve dreamt about this for over five years, and now feels like the right time,” says Swinburn. “Vancouverites are starting to see the value in smaller, locally-owned businesses that help create a stronger sense of community.”
Mah Milk bar is now softly open with the ‘official’ opening set for Saturday, October 14th. Plans are to be open Wed – Sun, from 8:30am – 4:30pm. Hit them up for a visit as soon as you can! In the meantime, take a look inside and out…