Cardinal Press Espresso Bar has been named one of the top three coffee shops in Newmarket for the third year in a row.
The shop’s owner Omar Saer said the recognition from Three Best Rated means even more amid the pandemic and the challenges they had to navigate through.
“It’s nice to see all the hard work pays off,” he said.
Throughout the pandemic, they were closed entirely for about one month and then were able to operate offering just takeout, but for Saer it wasn’t the same without having customers in the shop.
“That’s my favourite part of the job. The hardest shift from the pandemic era has been just the lack of people in the shop. We used to always be packed and there was always such life,” he said.
Now that they’ve been open for indoor dining for a few months, some of that is returning.
Saer said they have a handful of people who come in on a daily basis and lots of returning customers that he calls their “family of regulars.”
Tim Dawe, who said he lives just 30 second away, is one of those customers who comes in often.
He likes to order a large triple-triple and enjoy the vibe of the coffee shop.
“The atmosphere’s great here, the coffee’s great, all the staff are friendly,” Dawe said, adding that you can tell they put a lot of work into the shop.
He said that supporting small businesses is why he keeps coming back.
“It’s locally owned. You see the owner in the store, that’s why I do it,” he said.
That sentiment was echoed by Lorraine Vosu, another customer who visits a couple of times a month when she’s in the area.
She said it’s very important to support local businesses and added that you don’t get the same level of service at bigger chains.
Her biggest highlight is the menu, with items like quiches, muffins, and customizations for your drinks like almond or oat milk.
“They have a huge variety to choose from,” Vosu said. “I just love it. They’re fast but the coffees are really delicious. They’re really very flavourful.”
Cardinal Press is approaching its five-year anniversary this December, but Saer said he never expected to get into the coffee business that early.
“We were supposed to when we retired move up north, have a little coffee shop, and just live by the lake and have an easy life. That was the plan but it got a little bit accelerated,” he said.
He was working in the film industry prior to this when his wife encouraged him to do some research and get experience as a barista during a lull in his work.
Saer ended up working at Cover Notes, the coffee shop that was located at 222 Main St. before Cardinal Press.
After a few months, the owners decided they were ready to retire and offered Saer the opportunity to take over.
“There must have been something in the air,” he said of how everything just lined up.
After about a year, they rebranded as Cardinal Press Espresso, a name that carries a lot of meaning for Saer.
He said he wanted to make sure they had something recognizable when people thought of the shop but he’s also a self-proclaimed avid birder and said cardinals have always been a favourite for him.
They have also become a special symbol for him and his wife, who is co-owner of the coffee shop.
“Since my wife and I have been together, cardinals have always nested in our backyard. They’ve kind of always just been around us,” Saer said.
The couple recently welcomed their first child and while his wife is currently at home with their three-month old son, Saer said “she’s the unsung hero of this place.”
He said at home they have already talked about getting their little one involved in business one day.
“I’d love to see my son grow up and learn to enjoy this little world,” he said.
According to Saer, his son is already comfortable at Cardinal Press and sleeps soundly every time they bring him in.
He said having a kid has also given him a whole new appreciation for caffeine.
His personal favourite is an americano, but for new customers coming into the shop, he recommends any of their espresso beverages.
“Espresso is our bread and butter,” he said. “There’s something beautiful about the simplicity of two things coming together very perfectly.”
The shop is also known for its tea lattes and the specialities that Saer likes to concoct.
One of those is the Meeting House Fog, made in collaboration with Meeting House Church. When you order that drink, $1 from each cup goes to Rose of Sharon.
He has also invented the Newmarket Fog, a local spin on the classic London Fog.
“Every component of it has something to do with the history of the town of Newmarket,” Saer said of the drink.
“My dream is to one day be out on the other coast and someone’s ordering a Newmarket Fog,” he said.
Supporting the local community is an important part of the business for Saer, who said he always tries to source their supplies from other Canadian companies and small businesses.
The shop is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesday, Thursdays, and Fridays, and from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends.