They opened Bubba & Bugs Coffee Bar in Kemptville on March 27, 2020, right at the start of the pandemic, and somewhere along the way got designated a “queer safe place.”
“It never occurred to us to close; we were committed – it had to work,” says Scott Godwin, otherwise known as Bugs. “We didn’t have a plan B and there was no turning back.”
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The Mierins family established their foundation in 2018 and felt it was their obligation to support the new state-of-the-art hospital.
“We were not going to be victims, we decided to forge on and be positive and appreciative,” adds Luc Vincent, or Bubba. “I think we made a conscious decision to be creative, have fun regardless of what was going on.”
Their strategy was simple. They took to social media. They started organizing events like virtual drag queen bingos, creating fun videos and celebrating every annual event with something special like a red-and-white smoothie for Canada Day or adding fun Halloween decorations and treats, always with a touch of mischief and humour.
They took the time on social media to engage with their customers and, to a large extent, credit that engagement with their success.
“A lot of people come for the engagement, they don’t mind waiting 20 minutes because they know they’ll get their 15 minutes with us at the counter,” says Vincent. The cafe serves hot and cold beverages, as well as lunch and brunch items and a tempting variety of sweet treats.
They both agree that it seems a little surreal to look back at the months of the pandemic and realize they’re still in business.
“The one thing we learned from the pandemic was that, you can plan as much as you want, but life will dictate what happens. It’s your ability to adapt, to show up, stay strong and stay true to yourself that will carry you through,” says Godwin.
As far as designating their café as a queer safe place, it happened organically.
“We didn’t really do anything official; it was the youth that came in here that designated it that way,” says Godwin.
Originally from Kemptville, Godwin says growing up in the community wasn’t a great experience; at the time, it wasn’t a safe place to be openly gay.
“There has been remarkable progress since then,” he says.
He left in 1997 and headed to Toronto, where he met Vincent, also from rural Ontario. When the couple decided to give up their day jobs and open a café together, they knew they wanted to be somewhere in Eastern Ontario. Godwin’s mother still lived in Kemptville and when she found out that one of the local cafés was closing and coming up for sale, she let them know.
As it states on their website, “Do they know all there is to know about coffee? Nope. However they do know love, they know friendship, they know family, they know dreams and that is exactly what you will taste in every cup, every plate and what you will (they hope) feel every time you step through the big pink door.”
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