STRATFORD – Matt Clendinning didn't even know how to make a decent cup of coffee when he first decided to open a cafe.
"I just figured I'd jump in and try it," he said.
But one year, one pandemic and one impromptu wedding later, he's already opening another one.
A lot has happened for Clendinning since opening The Lucky Bean in Montague, and this month he's making another jump by opening a second location in Stratford.
Originally from Ontario, Clendinning was visiting a friend in Montague last year when he saw a for-sale heritage building on Main Street. At the time, his plan was to live in a van and travel, but something about the building called to him in a weird way, he said.
"No, you want to come here," the building seemed to be saying. "You want me."
While he didn't yet understand why, he bought it on a whim and moved to P.E.I. He figured he'd rent it out for someone to run their own business, believing it would make for a good cafe in a town where there weren't many. But no one was interested, he said.
"OK, well someone's gotta open a coffee shop here."
In retrospect, life has always moved quickly for Clendinning. He loves the creative side of business and makes sure to do his due diligence, but he also knows when to make the jump on opportunities.
"Owning a coffee shop wasn't really on my radar," he said. "(But) once you buy a commercial espresso machine, it kind of converts you."
The Lucky Bean opened in Montague in August 2019. While Clendinning learned a lot in order to make the cafe work, he credits the people and local businesses he partnered with in making it the community hub it has become – known for its vibrant plant life and vinyl record selection.
Since then, life has continued to move quickly. Around the time he opened, a woman named Tiffany bought some of Clendinning's first merchandise. Four months later, the two were engaged.
"There's no Lucky Bean without her."
They eloped, and three months ago their first child was born.
Then, not long after, Clendinning was informed about a for-sale building on Glen Stewart Drive in Stratford – the same one that formerly housed a few other cafes, such as Now n' Zen.
The Montague location had done well and had been able to stay open, despite having to close during the COVID-19 lockdown. So, at first, Clendinning brushed off the idea, he said.
However, by mid-September, he was signing a contract and taking measurements to make a new sign for the building's front.
One of his main reasons for making yet another jump was researching the growing town of Stratford and feeling that, like Montague, it could use a cafe.
"I'd be foolish not to take up this opportunity," he said.
But like always, Clendinning knew he'd need to partner with others to make it work. Enter Rachel Fletcher, who had just been hired on in Montague and who had run a few businesses – including cafes – in the past.
"Yo, do you want to manage it in Stratford?" he asked Fletcher on her first day of work.
"Uh, sure," she replied.
Fletcher was living in New Brunswick when, similarly to Clendinning, she felt called to make the jump back home to P.E.I. She plans to bring the same aesthetic and event programming to the Stratford location and may work her passion for local art into it as well.
"I always knew I'd wind up back here," she said. "I just hope the skillset I have can help The Lucky Bean to become more what it is."
The Stratford location officially opened on Nov. 16. As for where Clendinning is planning to jump to next:
"For now, I think two (cafes) is plenty."
Daniel Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Guardian