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LET'S EAT: Family, supporting local at heart of Newmarket cafe

'One of the best things that people should really do is shop local. That’s what keeps our community going,' says Robin Groves, owner of This Little Cafe in the Magna Centre

Despite a 30-year track record of owning businesses in Newmarket, Robin Groves almost talked herself out of rebranding and opening This Little Cafe in the Magna Centre on Mulock Drive.

“It was challenging to get back open,” said Robin. “There were many tears and many, many panic attacks. My daughter said, ‘Mom, you are a business owner, you have always been a business owner, just do it.' My daughter is my biggest cheerleader. If I didn’t have that conversation, I would have talked myself out of it.”

At one time, Robin and her husband of 32 years, Jason, were franchise owners of mmmuffins in Upper Canada Mall and Timothy’s coffee, one at Yonge Street and Bonshaw Avenue, and the other in the Magna Centre. When COVID-19 struck, Timothy’s – like all other businesses – was shut down. Jason had to go back to work and Robin decided to rebrand and open at This Little Cafe.

Robin hired Stephanie from Newmarket’s Studio Forma Interior Design Inc. to redo her storefront. 

Because everything was still shut down, Stephanie did the redesign using measurements she took from an amateur video Robin filmed at her location. 

Robin also connected with Mark from Velvet Sunrise Coffee Roasters in Stouffville to provide coffee. 

“He has the same passion for what he is doing that I do,” said Robin, who said Mark is self taught and goes above and beyond. Velvet Sunrise makes the espresso blend they serve at This Little Cafe.  

Mark was also instrumental in helping her source her supplies. Because of the supply-chain issues due to the pandemic, Robin was having difficulty getting the items she needed. 

“Mark got all my supplies. He helped me out that first year.”

The baked goods for This Little Cafe are created by her daughter, Celeste Groves, owner of Batter’s Up Custom Cakes. Celeste, who went to both Humber College and George Brown, has a Baker Red Seal certification.

“We bake everything from scratch,” Robin said. “It’s all baked by her hands or my hands.”

Celeste and her brothers, Jordan and Dalton, “grew up” at the Magna Centre cafe, where they served customers throughout their teen years.

“She (Celeste) really knows the Magna clientele.”

That clientele are kids — swimmers and skaters — playing or practising their sports and their parents, who cheer them on from the sidelines or hunch over their laptops working. Because Robin remembers the days of kids and sports and trying to juggle both, this Little Cafe offers a mix of healthy foods like fresh sandwiches prepared nightly, cheese slices and seasonal fruit, as well as cookies, loafs, cupcakes, popular with the swimmers, and squares, scones — “her scones are to die for” — and power balls, which are all baked in Robin’s Uxbridge kitchen. Robin and Jason moved from Newmarket where they lived for 18 years to bigger piece of property on the outskirts of Uxbridge. 

This Little Cafe is open Monday to Friday from 4 to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Robin said she tries to be open during tournaments and other big events and is open on the holidays that the Magna Centre is open.

Robin said one of the best things about operating the cafe in the Magna Centre is the connections she makes.

“In Magna, I do love seeing our regular parents and talking to them. I love that interaction.”

She also loves that fact those little skaters and swimmers, who are one time could barely see over her counter to order their cupcakes, are now skating coaches themselves – and some of them are even driving. “We love to see the kids and we love to see the parents.”

And while Robin and her staff may not know everybody’s name, they often do know their orders and love making those connections.

“I know people. They know I am the owner. (This Little Cafe) is owned by actual people.”

And that is why people need to shop local.

“Newmarket feels like a small town. One of the best things that people should really do is shop local. That’s what keeps our community going. Newmarket is a community-oriented town. If we support each other, everyone will be successful.”