Mercer Islanders dream of a Town Center that is more lively, welcoming and befitting of its small town, “village” atmosphere. A new business coming to Islandia Shopping Center in a few months could make that a reality.
Longtime community volunteer and avid baker Joel Wachs is planning to open Convivial Cafe in March 2018. The bakery-cafe is geared toward community, and will have a meeting room, a lounge area and plenty of other seating where patrons can enjoy artisanal breads, pastries, desserts, coffee from Elm Coffee Roasters and more.
“It will be a place where you can always get a whole wheat sandwich, or a chocolate chip cookie or a blueberry muffin,” Wachs said. “There will be old favorites along with new things to discover.”
The Convivial Cafe location is currently under construction. Wachs is working with architects at Best Practice, who have designed several Cupcake Royale locations, among other projects.
Wachs said he always wanted to open a cafe, even before moving to Mercer Island about 10 years ago. He became involved in the Island community, joining the Library Board, Open Space Conservancy Trust, Farmers Market Board, Town Center Visioning Group and, for five months until health concerns forced his resignation, the Mercer Island City Council.
Before moving to the Island, Wachs lived in Paris, in a culture famous for buying fresh baked bread every day. He started learning more tricks of the baking trade about six years ago, when he started working with Andy Papadatos at his Snohomish Bakery, a favorite vendor at the Mercer Island Farmers Market.
He said he started talking to the Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce about opening a similar business on the Island, but is heading into this venture with “eyes wide open” about the retail climate and success rate of new small businesses.
Still, he wanted to create the space Islanders say they want.
“The number of bakeries and cafes is declining [in France], but each neighborhood still has its baker, and there really isn’t one here,” Wachs said.
Chamber Director Laurie Givan said the buzz is building around the new business. People walking by Island Books, Terra Bella and Homegrown have already noticed the blue and white window signage and visited the website. Wachs said he hopes to collaborate with neighboring businesses on events.
He also wants his customers to know that his cafe will be receptive and responsive to input and suggestions. He said that the baked goods offered will change throughout the day, from breakfast, to after school snacks, to dessert.
According to the website, Wachs chose the name “Convivial” because it describes his hopes for the bakery cafe: “relating to lively social events centered around food, drinks, and friendly conversation.”
“The idea is that people won’t come here to just get a pastry or a cup of coffee, but that they’re bound to see someone they know,” he said.
See www.convivialcafe.com for more.