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No place like Norton’s Cove

Janet Davis and Duke Kelloway outside the historic J. Kean shop — now Norton’s Cove Studio.
Janet Davis and Duke Kelloway outside the historic J. Kean shop — now Norton’s Cove Studio.

ARTS, TOURISM and CULTURE While studies are being released lamenting the uncertain future of rural Newfoundland, Janet Davis and Duke Kelloway are quietly creating the life they want to lead in the place they love — Norton’s Cove in New-Wes-Valley.

Janet Davis and Duke Kelloway inside the café during construction.

Their latest venture, Norton’s Cove Café, sits atop a small hill looking out over the islands of Bonavista Bay. It’s a brand new two-storey building with a vaulted ceiling on the top floor and windows on three sides.
“Every table has a fantastic view,” Davis said. “It’s designed so the windows are right around the cove.”
The café is across the road from Norton’s Cove Studio. When the couple returned to their hometown after Davis graduated from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, they restored a historic building — a general store built by Job Kean in the 1890s — and opened a printmaking studio and retail shop.
Davis is an award-winning artist who’s exhibited at the provincial art gallery at The Rooms in St. John’s and at other galleries around the province. For the last 15 years she’s been making linocut relief prints inspired by Newfoundland imagery to sell in her shop and on her website, as well as wholesaling to over 40 other businesses. She also paints and hooks rugs in impressionistic patterns inspired by the sea.
The café walls will give Davis space to display some of the larger pieces of artwork she’s storing in her studio.
Davis thought about opening a café when tourists kept asking where in the area they could get something to eat that wasn’t deep-fried.  

Reminders of the old shop sit beside items for sale.

Sitting in the living room of the Kean house — a town landmark, which the couple renovated over several years — Davis recalls that she and her husband were wondering the same thing.
Kelloway remembered a saying from his uncle in Greenspond, “If you want something in this area, you’ve got to build the thing yourself.”
They planned to start small, renovating a shed on their property, but then Davis’s parents gave them a piece of land across from the shop and, she says, “that changed everything.”
The cafe’s chalkboard menu will change daily, depending upon the produce available. They plan to serve as much locally sourced food as possible — everything that’s fresh and in season, including a wide variety of fish and shellfish from the local fish plant. And, they stress, in keeping with the theme of providing food you can’t get anywhere else in the area — there will always be vegetarian and gluten-free options.
They laugh, trying to describe their menu, and finally settle on, “Fresh and healthy. Not gourmet, just gorgeous.”

Norton’s Cove Café and Studio, with the Kean house in the background.

Kelloway says, as luck would have it, a friend of theirs — a chef currently commuting for work — has agreed to be their cook.
“Ted O’Connor does some beautiful stuff and his ideas are right,” Davis said. “The food is different enough — you don’t want to compete with Nan’s cooking — but still familiar enough as well.”
Davis says he’s been bringing her samples of what he’d like to do and she’s still drooling over his moose bourguignon.
They also hope to collaborate with people from other parts of the world — from Iran or Sweden, for example, who’ve moved to the area to work at the hospital — to put on themed nights highlighting food from their cultures.  
“I think locally we can show off a bit of that multiculturalism that people don’t think of when they think about outport Newfoundland,” Davis says.
The café won’t be just about food, they’ll offer entertainment in the evenings as well, from live music to book launches. There’s even talk of a magic show.
Davis says, “We don’t want it to be stuffy and pretentious. We want it be very relaxed — a casual, comfortable atmosphere where people can feel they’re around friends.”
Unlike many small-town restaurants, they plan to stay open year round. Davis says she gets a lot of tourists at her shop in the spring looking for icebergs, who complain that many places are closed.

“We’re on Cape Freels where the ice closes in on the shore and where we can see over 200 icebergs from the shore, in a good year,” Kelloway says.

He adds that the café is not only meant to cater to tourists.

“There are over 3,000 people in the winter who might want somewhere to go,” he said. “We’ve got to stop thinking of everything we open as tourism, as opposed to our resource.”

Davis agrees. “I live here year-round and I want somewhere to go in the winter. I’d love to be able to hear live music without driving to St. John’s. I’d like my town to be the place I want to be all the time without having to drive somewhere to find the things I want.”

The café was designed by an architectural draftsperson, Paul Perry, from Newtown, and local tradesmen were hired for construction.  

Once it’s up and running and the patios have been added, Kelloway plans to start working on marina wharfs to allow access from the water. It’s an idea he came up with when they were sailing their own boat, the Virtue, along the northern coast of Newfoundland.

“Most wharfs aren’t suitable for sailboats. They’re too high. And we’re just a day’s sail away from anyone in Conception Bay — where there are 350 boaters in marinas — going north, and we’ve got people from Lewisporte sailing south.”

In the next phase of their plan, they’ll develop the first level of the café building, putting in showers, laundry and Wi-Fi facilities for sailors.

The café is due to open this spring and when the first of the floating docks are installed later in the summer, yachts will be able to tie up after sailing in through the well-marked run once used by the Blackwoods, Keans and other famous schooner captains from this coast.

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