Monday, July 22, 2024

‘More than a café’ opens in Campbell’s Bay

Méli Mélo Bistro offers a new space for young people to make their own

Camilla Faragalli
Campbell’s bay Dec. 13, 2023
At the beginning of this month, Lisa Boisvert made a childhood fantasy a reality, opening the doors of her new café, Méli Mélo Bistro, to the public for the first time.
The Ladysmith resident says it’s something she’s been thinking about for decades.
“When I was a kid I always played restaurant, I had a cash-register for fun,” she said. “I love people so much, I love the public. I love interacting with all ages. And I’ve been in the service industry for a very long time.”
The café, located in the centre of Campbell’s Bay on Front Street, offers a variety of healthy dine-in and take-out options for breakfast and lunch, as well as coffee and fresh-baked snacks.
Boisvert said she hopes Méli Mélo Bistro will provide a space where teenagers and young adults, particularly, know they are welcome.
“I’m not a babysitter, but I want to offer a place for them to be, where they know they’re not going to be kicked out,” she said, explaining that for many teens, finding a place to relax either in solitude or with friends can be challenging.
“I want this to be more than a café. I hope I can be everybody’s comfort. I had a place like that when I was younger, I was very fortunate,” she said.
“I think I’m trying to give back what I had, because I’m glad I had it.”

‘A little bit of this and a little bit of that’

While Boisvert is still working around empty fridges and display cases from the building’s previous tenants, she said so far business has been good.
There is no fixed food menu at Méli Mélo, but daily specials and some staples are available.
“I’m adapting, it’s whatever they [customers] want,” she said.
Based on customer feedback, Boisvert said she has plans to start serving breakfast, and have chili on offer every day.
“To me, that’s what méli-mélo means – ‘whatever you want’ – a little bit of this and a little bit of that.”
In addition to providing healthy options, Boisvert is making an effort to keep her prices affordable, and is including taxes in her prices.
“The reason I did that is the market I’m aiming at. I don’t need them counting their pennies and wondering if they have enough,” she said.
She added that she is discounting food from the day before, and if still unable to sell it, freezing it and donating it to local food bank, Bouffe Pontiac.

A place for youth

According to Boisvert, there aren’t many options for teenagers wanting to hang out in Campbell’s Bay.
“They’re mature adolescents and yet they have nowhere to go and nothing to do,” said the mother of three.
Boisvert said she intends to remove the old fridges that line the front room, and change the lighting to make the space more cozy, or “zen,” as she called it.
Boisvert said she is familiar with many of the local youth from years of experience working in a CEGEP program called La Défriche.
Through the program, which serves different local high schools including Pontiac High School in Shawville, Dr. Wilbert Keon School in Chapeau, and École secondaire Sieur-de-Coulonge in Mansfield, Boisvert worked with students on things like social autonomy, cooking, positive communication and budgeting.
“I did some entrepreneurial projects with them so I know that they’re smart, they have so many ideas, too,” she said, “And a lot of them recognize me, so I have that to my advantage.”
Boisvert said she’s got plenty of ideas about how she wants to use her new space beyond the café’s regular hours.
“Once I establish myself and know I’m viable, I want to be able to offer evening paint nights and workshops,” she said.
She said she’s already received recommendations from young people as to ways to use the space to best accommodate them.
“Live music and dances, crochet lessons and games nights,” said Boisvert. “I’ve had all age groups come in and I love it, I’ll never turn away anybody.” she said.

Supporting other businesses

Boisvert was keen to stress the need for more inter-municipal community support for local businesses to thrive.
“We’re 18 municipalities and nobody talks to each other,” she said. “Everybody sticks to their own.”
“I want restaurants to encourage each other,” she said. “There’s banger places around and nobody knows about them.”
Boisvert said that in an effort to encourage this, she is toying with the idea of introducing placemats referring customers to restaurants outside of the immediate vicinity.
“I’m not afraid I’m going to lose business because I’m encouraging people to go to other businesses near me,” she said. “I’m just happy to be here. I took a chance, I tried, and whether I make it or not, it’s something that I really wanted to do.”
“We [municipalities] all have good food,” she added, “We should try everywhere and encourage everyone.”
Méli Mélo is open Monday to Saturday from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. Hours are subject to change.


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