A cafe across from the Arts Centre? Well, d'uh!

(Douglas McLean, left, and Kimberley Davey pose by the counter at Maphin's.)

Every now and then, someone comes up with a “D’uh” idea.

I mean this as the richest of compliments, as in: “Is that a good idea? Well, d’uh!”

And so, conflict of interest be damned, I want to tell you about Brockville’s latest “D’uh” idea: A café right across the street from an arts centre.

But first, the conflict of interest disclosure: I am writing about a new King Street West coffee shop called Maphin’s, the owners of which are friends of mine, where my daughter happens to work part-time. This is why I am writing about it on my personal blog alone, and not in the R&T.

But it bears writing about because Maphin’s is also the latest incarnation of the Nehemiah Seaman House, the oldest stone building left standing in Brockville.

It was built in 1816 on a plot of land purchased by Seaman a year earlier for 200 pounds. After a span of 80 years, during which time the property was a residence and then a saddle and harness business, it became the site of a bloody gun battle when fox hunter Ur Lapointe, armed with a shotgun, placed himself behind a large billboard behind the Seaman building and began shooting.

The ensuing gun battle left one man, Peter Moore, dead.

The Seaman house was purchased in 1911 by candymaker George Howison. The family operated a confectionery there until the late 1960s when the building was rented to Cowan's Dairy Bar.

Howison's daughters, Marion and Helen, never married and continued to live together above the main street shop until the middle of the last decade.

More recently, the building's new owner, Sam Rawas, set about the long and very complicated task of renovating it. And more recently still, Kimberley Davey and Douglas McLean purchased the site in August 2015 and converted it into a coffee shop.

“It’s just such a great end of town,” said Davey.

Indeed, the site at the corner of Perth Street and King Street West is right across from the Brockville Arts Centre, a proximity – both geographical and thematic – on which the owners plan to capitalize.

“Our plan is to open before all the shows, concerts, and open when the shows come out,” said Davey.

Which brings me to another local dispute that has taken on, intermittently, the importance of a civic affair: Downtown store hours. If a coffee house is an ideal business to locate across from an arts venue, so too is the ideal time to operate it right around said venue’s shows.

Of course, there are other restaurants open in the evenings downtown, but you can see the arts centre’s marquee from this one. Having a coffee house right across the street can only add to Downtown Brockville’s unique cachet as a centre not only of business but also culture and the arts.

Davey and McLean plan to operate in the late afternoon, early evening hours, for what they hope will be the after-dinner dessert crowd.

So now, a building left derelict for years is infused with the aroma of fine coffee. One wall, in a sort of quirky nod to history, is lined with Popular Mechanics pages from 1958 (check out the sci-fi flying machines) while the entire place, of course, pays tribute to a much longer history.

It’s a great addition to the downtown core. And the service is excellent, which I say with the utmost lack of objectivity.