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'Need for growth': Popular Eclectic Café expands to second location

Demand for market-style space 'one of the positives that came out of the pandemic,' says co-owner of downtown eatery
Eclectic Café co-owners Alana Bell, left, and Melanie Robinson recently opened a second location beside their downtown eatery.

Eclectic Café’s growing popularity has resulted in the business expanding to a second location.

The downtown Orillia eatery first opened in 2019 at 39 Mississaga St. W. During the pandemic, the business ran a test pilot on Saturdays, selling market-like products such as freshly baked goods, pre-cooked meals, meals ready to be cooked, baked goods ready to be cooked, and freezer products.

“It was one of the positives that came out of the pandemic,” said Eclectic Café co-owner and head chef Melanie Robinson. “It was really successful.”

In October 2022, the café expanded next door at 37 Mississaga St. W., the site of the former Worksite Quality Workwear store, to offer the same products on an everyday basis. The expansion of about 1,000 square feet of retail space has also allowed the business to meet the demand for its catering services, which required an overflow kitchen.

“This came out of a need for growth,” Robinson said. “We did 17 weddings last year that were all amalgamated from the pandemic. Doing that in our tiny kitchen next door while facilitating our other partners, we didn’t have the space to grow any further.”

With wedding season on the horizon and the return of outdoor events, Robinson is looking forward to putting the new space to good use.

“Catering is something I’ve always really enjoyed doing,” she said. “We do custom menus for every event so it doesn’t get boring. That is one thing that sets us apart as a caterer in the area.”

For weddings, Eclectic Café follows the seasons and works with couples to create menus just for them.

“It’s always fun that way, especially for us — a kitchen that would get bored of cooking the same food all of the time,” Robinson said.

At Eclectic Café’s eatery, the menu is changed every six to eight weeks in the summer based partly on the growing seasons.

“We stay very local and seasonally driven,” Robinson said. “It keeps it interesting for the customers.”

The new Eclectic Café location showcases local makers of food products in Ontario with a few from Halifax, Vancouver Island, and the Toronto area.

“Our farmers come through our doors on a daily basis,” Robinson said. “It’s really important to us to have that face value with our local farmers that we support.”

The new location is also where Eclectic Café offers its jarred and canned goods, as well as fresh and frozen items that made the test pilot a success.

“If you are ever in a pinch and don’t know what to get for dinner, you can stop by and build your own meal while you are here,” Robinson explained. “In the summer months, we will have products that are marinated and ready to grill, products that are fully cooked and ready to reheat, and things like cookies and scones that are ready to bake.”

A feature will soon be added to the Eclectic Café website that will allow customers to be informed monthly of what will be featured in the new location every weekend.

“We are also looking at a pre-order idea. Through our website, you will be able to pre-order our items by clicking what you want, and we will have it ready to go,” Robinson said.

During the busy spring, summer and fall months, Eclectic Café employs 20 people with its catering staff, which is a reflection of how well supported the business is in Orillia, she said.

“We love being in Orillia and it’s a great community,” she said. “People really supported me at the start and, now, us collectively.”


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Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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