Al Larocque believes in making the most of an opportunity.
The owner of Caffeination seized the opportunity to create a new business in the downtown core, one which provides a truly unique item to Timmins — fresh roasted coffee beans.
In February, Seymour’s Pantry opened at 220 Second Ave., next door to the CIBC. The facility features two adjacent storefronts. One is being used to provide quick and delicious lunch and snack options, plus a selection of regional grocery items such as sausage, meat and cheese. The other side, when customers are not relaxing with their favourite repast, will be used for special events.
“It was an opportunity for me. The year before somebody was already here. They left,” Larocque said. “When they left, a friend of mine owned the building and, basically, he asked me to come in and clean the place for him because he was in Florida. He had no one else to come in to clean up, get the lawyers and all the paperwork ready. Eventually, I came in and I cleaned it. He put it for sale.
“It did not really work out, so after spending so much time in here, I just realized that maybe I can do something about it.”
While he wanted to set up a unique business, Larocque drew from history to come up with the name Seymour’s Pantry.
“I didn’t want the same name anymore. I didn’t want Coffee Warehouse. I want everyone to forget about that place,” he said. “There was lots of history with the Seymour Building. I did not want to lose that history. It’s part of Timmins. There are two plates outside of Seymour Building saying Seymour’s on it.
“So we came up with the idea of Seymour’s Pantry. At first we were thinking Seymour’s Coffee but, no, it’s not going to be a coffee shop.”
During the week, a lot of the clientele work in the city’s downtown core. Many have limited time available for breaks and lunch. They seek something good, and quickly.
“Our idea was very simple. People have 30 minutes to eat something, so they’re in a rush,” Larocque said. “We make sure we can serve a hundred people if we need to inside the hour or two hours. In five or 10 minutes they can have something.
“It’s all budget also. They can grab a $2 slice of pizza or a $2 hot dog, or you pay $9.99 for pasta with salad. It’s for every budget. The most important thing is that people can just grab and go or if they have time, sit down and enjoy.”
From salads and sandwiches to hot dishes, there is something to suit everyone’s taste.
In addition to the food service, Seymour’s Pantry is sharing the secret of brewing a truly great cup of coffee. The store sells a variety of coffee beans, which are sometimes roasted while the customer waits.
“We try to be unique. Our first thing is that we roast our own coffee beans,” Larocque explained. “All the beans come in green. We roast them. It takes around 12 or 13 minutes, and then we have the fresh bags of roasted coffee beans right in front of you. It’s our speciality. We’re the only ones in Timmins doing this.”
He said there is a huge difference between fresh roasted beans and prepackaged coffee.
“It’s the number of weeks and months that it could be on the shelf in a grocery store,” he said. “In the store, everything comes from the warehouse. The green beans are totally fresh. We order them, they arrive and they aren’t roasted, so they can last for a long time. Even when you roast them, you need to wait three or four days before you can use them.
“If the person wants us to grind it, we’ll grind it. But the coffee will keep way longer if you just grind what you need. If you grind everything, it will start to lose its flavour. Leave it in the beans, leave it in the bag and just grind whatever you need for the morning or the day, then your coffee will last much longer.”
In addition to the fresh roasted beans, Seymour’s Pantry has a variety of K cups available for sale.
“Coffee is kinda my alley,” Larocque said. “We have different K cups here (than at Caffeination) because I don’t want to do a repeat.
“I’ve been thinking about (selling fresh roasted) for a long time. But I didn’t think it (Caffeination) is in a good location for that on Algonquin Boulevard. I thought downtown, fresh coffee, with a little park beside, that will work out.”
On the other side of the building, Seymour’s Pantry has already hosted several successful special events.
“We’ve hosted two of the Urban Markets. I don’t think there will be another one until June,” he said. “This summer we’ll go outside. It’s a possibility that maybe next year we’ll do it once a month, or every two months. We don’t want to do it every weekend.
“In the meantime we’ve rented the one side a couple times. One time was a shower, one time was to the BIA. If someone wants a stag and doe or whatever, we’ll apply for a licence and stuff like that.”
Currently, Seymour’s Pantry is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Larocque is considering Sunday openings in the summer.