New All-In-One Vancouver Cafe, Shop, Bakery and Space, ‘The Garden’
Vancouver’s newest Instagramable cafe recently opened their doors in September. Whenever an aesthetically pleasing spot pops up in the city, it instantly gets a giant wave of interest. However, The Garden isn’t just any pretty and hip cafe. Located in Strathcona – the oldest neighbourhood in Vancouver – The Garden is a genius combination of a cafe, retail shop, and space for workshops and events.
The Garden is carefully put together by owners Anna McMillan, Rheanna Miller and Kirsten Kennedy. The cafe has all the standard caffeinated items you’d expect and is roasting beans from local favourite Agro Roasters. Inclosed in the glass case you’ll find freshly baked cookies, muffins, and cupcakes that are all made in house. Their Vegan Salted Chocolate Chip Cookie have already become a favourite amongst visitors. The Garden’s food menu contains light snacks and lunch items that are both healthy and delicious. Choose between various soups, sandwiches. toasts like the Almond and Banana Toast, or specialty salads like the Mushroom Bowl.
We sat down with owners Anna McMillan and Rheanna Miller to hear more about the inspiration behind The Garden.
Can you tell us introduce yourself and tell us about The Garden?
Anna: I’m Anna McMillan and I’m the General Manager and Founder. I primarily do more of the baking, cooking and getting the place up and running. And also the business operations.
Rheanna: I’m Rheanna Miller and and I’m more of the Cafe Manager and Front of House Manager. And I’m also a partner at The Garden.
Anna: The Garden is a combination of things. It’s a cafe, retail shop, bakery, and a space. For our cafe, we serve coffee from Agro Roasters, bake everything in-house and have a food program where we do everything from scratch. It’s mostly lighter food like brunch and lunch items. As we continue to grow and expand, we’d like to have an evening menu like wine and charcuterie boards. For our retail side, we have a specific selection of products that we mainly sourced from local suppliers. But we do have some global suppliers as well. We put an emphasis on sustainability, social responsibility and intentional high quality products.
Stepping inside, The Garden’s dark wood cafe bar welcomes you. Industrial and chic. And a hint of greenery on the side. Hand picked selection of artisanal housewares, ceramics, and specialty treats from local and global brands in The Garden’s retail corner.
What is your background? Why did you decide to start The Garden?
Anna: I grew up in an entrepreneurial family and it sort of has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I knew I always wanted to start a business so I went to business school and did my MBA at the University of Victoria. I knew I wasn’t quite ready to start my own venture yet so I got some practical experience in business operations at Lululemon and Kit and Ace. I got so much incredible experience and really refined my vision and goals at those companies. It was what helped me create my vision for The Garden.
Rheanna: Prior to this, for the last 4 years I was working in Marketing at Blanche Macdonald Centre, which is a local arts college in Vancouver. Anna approached me with this beautiful venture and vision she wanted to create. At the time I was also sort of talking about wanting to do something a bit entrepreneurial and our values really aligned. We’ve been friends for over a decade so I jumped in head first and haven’t looked back since.
Was there any local or international cafes that you got inspiration from?
Anna: Definitely got a lot of inspiration from both traveling and as well as just researching the internet for hours and hours. But in Vancouver specifically, a one that comes into mind would be Le Marche St. George.
Rheanna: There is a new space that opened up in New York called The Guild and I remember listening to a podcast of them explaining why they are creating the space. It was sort of the same idea that Anna had where she wanted to create a something where people would spend their time in. And it was all their favourite things. Beautiful things and people who are really passionate about their craft.
Rheanna: I showed it to some of my friends and it was the first time they really understood the concept of what we were creating here because the idea that you can have multiple things under roof and it would be a little bit different for each person. For some people it is may be the place to get their fix or favourite coffee. Someone else it might be the place to get wine and charcuterie. We really wanted to create a space where people would spend time in. We wanted to play up the elements that already existed here. So it wasn’t turning it into something it wasn’t. It was keeping it industrial, chic, thoughtful and intentional.
Anna: Another couple places where we were inspired by from our travels. There was a hotel in Brooklyn with a beautiful lobby with a plant wall. As soon as I saw the plant wall I knew I wanted to recreate it in some way. With the help of our lovely friend, Amanda, and Forage & Bloom she helped us build a plant wall that is quite similar in design. I think it really brings out that whole feeling of being in a garden space to life.
Tell us why you chose Strathcona.
Anna: We chose Strathcona as the neighbourhood that we built The Garden for two reasons. One was because of this building and the space. I came across it very serendipitously and it just really worked perfectly for the vision. Especially for the layout. And two, it is because it is in Strathcona, which is a really beautiful part of Vancouver. It is the oldest residential neighbourhood. There’s just the most absolute stunning homes and so much character. But it is also very easily accessible. It is really close to downtown and right next to Chinatown. There are also so many creative and wonderful people that live in Strathcona. They have all been coming in and telling us how much they really needed a space like this here so we feel particularly excited and proud to have brought something that the residents and neighbourhood really does support and enjoying having in the area.
Putting a retail shop in a cafe isn’t something new. What’s novel about The Garden is their meticulous and intentional use of their space. In the future, the team at The Garden will be opening up their space for people to hold workshops and classes in their kitchen, cafe bar, and second floor area. The various components makes it a unique experience for all types of people to congregate at. This is what’s truly fascinating and a very good addition to Vancouver’s cafe scene.