Folks hunting for a pick-me-up after a day at Cadboro Bay beach can no longer stop at the Penrhyn Street Starbucks which closed permanently on Oct. 25, but just across the road sits a bistro ready to welcome weary caffeine-seekers for an “old-school” coffee shop experience.
Olive Olio’s Bistro and Espresso has operated at the corner Penrhyn Street and Cadboro Bay Road for some 25 years – outlasting the local Starbucks which closed after 16 years – and current owner William Hall has been there since the beginning. Hall was hired by the original owners in the ’90s and after about two years, he bought the cozy establishment from them.
“There’s a strong sense of community here” in Cadboro Bay Village, Hall said. He added that it feels like a “vestige of neighbourhoods where people knew each other” and looked out for one another – for example, lost wallets are still returned in Cadboro Bay. “It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of.”
Over the years, Hall has seen an influx of development and seemingly constant business turnover in the Cadboro Bay area. He noted the recent losses of the Village Service garage and the Starbucks. The coffee chain closed its Cadboro Bay location as part of a Canada-wide restructuring effort amid the pandemic. In the first few days after the coffee shop closed, Hall has noticed new faces in his bistro seeking hot coffee.
He noted that it’s not a “night and day” difference as he feels Starbucks-lovers are still seeking out their brand-name caffeine fix at other locations, but those looking for specialty coffees and “fast lunches that are easy on the pocketbook” in the neighbourhood are finding what they need at Olive Olio’s.
Hall’s bistro “leans towards tradition rather than bells and whistles” and focuses on quality fare and person-to-person service. He pointed out that a specific draw to Olive Olio’s “old-school” approach is that customers will never have to wait while staff fill online orders or wrestle with technology.
Normally, patrons are invited to sit inside or out on the patio but due to the ongoing pandemic, Hall only permits one customer in the shop at a time and asks that everyone takes their orders to-go. As the majority of his clientele is over 60, Hall’s first priority is to ensure customers’ safety by giving them space.