After 21 years, pathway fixture Angel's Cafe to move to new home nearby
Angel's Cafe is a Calgary pathway institution, and this fall it will be moving to a new and improved home, just metres from where it's stood for the past 21 years.
But for owner Cathy Jacobs, the small move has been host to some big problems.
Jacobs was told by the City of Calgary in 2015 that the Montgomery cafe had to relocate because the building was too close to a power pole.
The old building couldn't be moved, so she invested $350,000 to build a new, modular structure that would be placed just nine-metres away from the existing cafe, which is near the pedestrian bridge that connects to Edworthy Park.
'We lost it all'
It was nearly finished when the builder backed out, the landlord won the rights to it, and Jacobs lost everything.
"We lost it all. In January I walked away with my head between my knees. It was just a horrifying experience. We guaranteed our whole life against this project," she said.
"We didn't have recourse.… To say I was on the brink of suicide would not be a stretch. I had risked our whole family's life, our family home, every asset we own as a family, my business of 21 years, everything."
To say Angel's Cafe means everything to Jacobs is no exaggeration. When she founded the business, she had gotten out of a women's shelter three years earlier.
"This was the do-over. I met my husband here, we married right here on the bridge," she said, gesturing to Harry Boothman Bridge, which crosses the Bow River right next to where the cappuccino and ice cream shop stands.
"I don't even know how to be without this place, and that's not an understatement."
Jacobs thought the building was gone for good, but learned seven months later that it hadn't yet gone to auction. On Monday, she came to an agreement to buy it back, sinking another $70,000 into the cafe — and she said it will likely require another $150,000 before the project is complete.
But, she's had some help. The roof for the new building was donated, and she said the rest of her team is going to do whatever it takes to get the new cafe built.
"We've never been a big moneymaker. Because money is not the reason we do what we do. It's taking care of people — that's our main goal," she said.
The new, 1,600-square-foot cafe will be filled with custom-built furniture that's sitting in storage ready to go.
She said she hopes it will be ready for city inspectors by Nov. 1, and the old building will stay in operation until the new one opens.
While the whole process has been a headache, Jacobs said as a family business owner, it's been a good lesson to pass on to her kids and grandkids.
"I've been knocked down more times in my life and I've gotten up every single time," she said.
"Life is hard. That's a fact. But it's not so hard that you can't find a way to get yourself back up on your feet, even if it means grabbing the hands of people beside you to get back up."
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With files from Terri Trembath