WHITEFISH FALLS—It’s been a dream years in the making, a slow and steady labour of love, but come Saturday, June 25, when the Church Mouse Café opens its doors in Whitefish Falls, for cousins Nicole Bond and Suzie Jewell it will have been well worth the wait.
The Church Mouse Café is situated in the former St. Julia’s Catholic Church, a Jesuit church circa 1912, nestled beside the former Wheeler’s Store (the historic Les Williamson Store) on Whitefish Falls’ ‘main drag.’
After the Catholic Church diocese sold the church property in the 1970s, the church changed hands a couple of times before once again ending up on the market and becoming the property of Ms. Bond, who says that while she hoped for waterfront property in her hometown to start a café, she’s happy with the way things worked out.
The cousins spoke of the monumental cleanup that took place in the rundown little church. After gowning up in hazmat suits and masks to ensure their safety against guano and mouse leftovers, the pair got down to business before the real work began—renovations to every aspect of the former St. Julia’s.
“I am in awe of both Suzie and Nicole—they did the work and construction on things that they thought they would never do in their lives,” said Ms. Bond’s brother Andre ‘Skipper’ Bussieres. “The two learned everything from how to use electric drills, to cutting baseboards on band saws, to the laying of floor throughout the entire building. Putting up siding, working at heights, painting, you name it, if they didn’t have the skillset before this project, they sure know it now. We are all very proud of the outcome of the project.”
And there is much to be proud about.
The narrow little church has been truly made over but Ms. Bond and Ms. Jewell have managed to return all of its original charms, and many of its fixtures too. The church’s actual confessional waits for patrons upstairs in the balcony seating area in case one is moved to make a confession, perhaps after a sinfully good treat from Ms. Jewell’s famed baking.
While the original bell from the church’s bell tower was looted many years ago, Ms. Bond was able to reclaim a beautiful piece of stained glass that had originally graced the community’s Anglican Church, since torn down, that the cousins have transformed into a stunning light fixture.
Even the pine boards used to detail the church wall were taken down, sanded and used for baseboards, window trim and the unique red tables that will be used in the café, and customers will delight in the candy table from the former Stump and Spry General Store (currently the Riverside Café) that acts as the café’s till. The pair is happy to boast that 90 percent of the wood from the church was reclaimed back into the building.
The Church Mouse Café, under the direction of Ms. Jewell, will be serving homemade soups and sandwiches, all on an array of homemade breads. Sweet treats (as anyone who has been on Ms. Jewell’s Christmas list can attest) are sure to be a big hit with the customers. Coffee, teas and cold beverages will round out the list of goods on offer.
The cousins say that each day will be a surprise for customers as there will not be a set menu, but that speciality items such as cakes, tarts or squares can be ordered in advance, as can loaves of bread.
“If you just want to come for a coffee, you can,” Ms. Jewell enthuses. Muskoka chairs can be found on the property outside so customers can enjoy their goodies in nature too.
“Everything is homemade—nothing will come from a box or a can,” she adds.
Ms. Bond explained that the Church Mouse Café was also designed as a venue and so everything is removable or on castors. A stage has been built in for entertainment and the stairs leading from the balcony to the café’s office can be pulled up so as not to obstruct the view from above.
The pair say they hope their café will attract those wishing to use it as a venue for events such as showers, anniversaries or small weddings with the repurposed church available for rent.
The venture has been filled with stories from the church’s past as people have stopped in to offer their good wishes during the renovations and share their accounts of St. Julia’s, which the cousins are glad to know.
Join Ms. Bond and Ms. Jewell during the grand opening of the Church Mouse Café this Saturday, June 25 from 10 am to 4 pm with live music from 2 to 4 pm. The Church Mouse Café will be open daily from 7 am to 7 pm. Call them at 705-285-1232.