To wrap up six years of a successful business, owner Elizabeth Brown is bringing in musician Mike Trask on their final evening this Friday, Sept. 30. Trask is a Nova Scotian blues musician, with a signature gravelly voice. His new album is a collection of personal songs with a folk feel to them, but very much in his own signature style.
The concert starts at 7 p.m., and tickets are $20 a piece. They can be purchased at the Woodpile or from Pam Samson, who is also helping organize the show. It will be very much along the lines of a house concert, so attendees are encouraged to bring snacks to share potluck style.
All proceeds are going directly to the musician, something Brown says is important for her to do. She says it’s a great way to finish things off, and is more than happy to support musicians doing what they love.
A change has been on Brown’s mind for a while, after some life changes back in early 2010. At the time, cook and co-owner Mike Olsen left for new endeavors, and Brown says they were not sure they would even continue the business. However their baker at the time Debbie Melanson stepped up to take on cooking duties, as well as Brown herself, and they kept the business going from there.
“With the help of the girls, we’ve pulled it off quite nicely,” she says.
Now though after a little more than a year running the business on her own, Brown says it’s time to finish up. She says it’s primarily about family, and wanting to spend more time with her two children. Not that it was an easy decision for her to make.
“For me, it’s a great business, and a great way to be part of the community,” she says. “I felt a lot of guilt closing down everyone’s favourite coffee shop. Not to mention it’s my baby, from concept to now everything in here has my fingerprints on them. That’s a hard thing to let go of.”
Though there were suggestions of selling the business, Brown says it was too much a part of them to really sell as a whole package. The carving section she will continue on her own since it is still one of her passions. The main dish recipes belong to Mike Olsen and Debbie Melanson is taking the desserts with her.
“The Woodpile really is Liz and Mike and Deb and the staff,” says Brown.
The business started very quickly for Brown and Olsen. At the time, Brown was teaching a carving class out of her home at the time, and Olsen was cooking for a local restaurant. The suggestion came from a student to open a small café downtown, in the then vacant space that became the Woodpile. That was in April of 2005, and by June 29 they were open for business.
They are leaving the landscape of Liverpool on a high note however, with many accomplishments under their belts. The Woodpile has consistently been part of Where to Eat In Canada since they opened in 2005. Brown says she is also proud of the dozens of students that have learned to carve out of the café since it opened.
“I felt a lot of guilt closing down everyone’s favourite coffee shop. Not to mention it’s my baby, from concept to now everything in here has my fingerprints on them. That’s a hard thing to let go of.” - Woodpile Cafe owner Elizabeth Brown
Since opening they have consistently had six employees, many of those students going through school. Brown says she got to watch them grown up and go off to university, and many of them have come back to visit when they were on holidays. She says the resturant became a family atmosphere, and that will be something she misses.
Brown started working with Sherman Hines at the Rossignol Cultural Centre earlier this year, and will continue to work at the centre over the winter months. She says they are hoping to bring the centre to a more active role within the community, as well as do some more fundraising. Brown is also looking forward to getting back to woodcarving and teaching classes again.
“There’s a lot of things I’d like to do, and I’m looking forward to having the flexibility to do that.”
Brown says she is leaving with many great memories of her time at the restaurant, and the people it brought in. There have been lots of ups and a few downs as well. But the biggest relief she says will be not having to worry about the multitude of things that need to be done each day.
The success they’ve had though comes in large part to the community, and Brown says she is very appreciative for what they have done.
“Thank you to every person who bought a biscuit. There’s a lot of folks who’ve made this place their own place,” she says.
It’s not just the people coming in for food that she’ll miss though. Brown says there have been many examples of great people that she’s had the privilege of meeting.
“This place has shown me what people are capable of. I can’t tell you how many lovely surprises we’ve had with people’s generosity.”
One that stands out were the number of people who would buy gift certificates for others in town, and left them at the restaurant for them. They were usually bought on the condition of staying anonymous, and they were usually left for someone who might have been feeling down or going through a rough patch.
“It gave that person a place to come and enjoy a little lunch. Watching those lovely things, watching people help each other in the crosswalks, you see a lot of good things,” she says.
Brown adds wherever she goes from here, she hopes things like that will stay commonplace.
“I hope in whatever business I’m in I get to keep interacting with them.”