South London seems ‘perfect’ for second location of espresso café

A new community hub is open in south London.

Locomotive Espresso, the core-area coffee bar, had seen its Pall Mall street site become a haven for local artists, students and professionals wanting to work away from the home or office and meet each other — back when we could sit in coffee shops.

Owner Jill Wright wants to bring that same community vibe to south London, opening Locomotive Espresso’s second location Tuesday, a 40-seat café at Ridout and Chester streets.

“The community is calling out for a kind of hub which is what we are known for,” said Wright.

“There is a neighbourhood movement called the third place. We all have our home, our work, and we should have a third place. We became that third place.

“We are connected to the community. There were books and screenplays written and documentaries planned, million-dollar grant proposals were written there. It happened for so many organizations. There were real estate deals made there, business deals. It is crazy.”

Wright was contacted more than a year ago by Lee Greenwood, partner at Canadian Commercial, a London real estate development firm that bought the building at 350 Ridout St. S., former home of Kalamata, the Greek restaurant, and Village Cycle.

Canadian Commercial wanted Locomotive Espresso as a tenant and pitched it on the space.

“They convinced me. I took one look at the space and said, ‘Wow, I have to take this.’ It was perfect,” Wright said. At 1,400 square feet, the new space is about double the size of the north London outlet.

Wright wanted to open in March, but after COVID-19 hit, it has been delayed awaiting final city inspections.

“I have been a regular customer at Locomotive Espresso for years and I wanted to have that same experience in south London. I thought that corner would lend itself well to a good quality coffee shop,” said Greenwood, who grew up in Old South.

“It is such a cool, nice location, a Victorian building. I chased it for about five years before buying it.”

Canadian Commercial has built a lot of commercial centres across Ontario, and into British Columbia and Winnipeg, but the chance to revitalize the classic yellow brick building became “a passion project,” said Greenwood.

The building also features a mural by London artist Andrew Lewis and will be home to Through Thick and Thin, a new pizza restaurant to be opened by London restaurateurs the Wolfe brothers by summer’s end.

The building is also home to an aesthetic salon and a barbershop with business offices on the upper floors.

Wright first opened Locomotive Espresso in 2014. She worked at the time in communications but a trip to Australia, a country passionate about its coffee, made her want to open a café here. She found a coffee supplier, Pilot Coffee Roasters in Toronto, opened by brothers from New Zealand.

“It is a lot to deal with now. I am excited, a little terrified. We are confident, we have so many people supporting us,” said Wright. “It’s going to be a great little hub for the community.”

Locomotive Espresso will open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at both locations.

Norman De Bono
Publishing date: Jul 07, 2020
London Free Press link