1904 Social Haus, a community meeting place

 In Business

When Shawna Skinner started making plans to open 1904 Social Haus in Stayner, she conceived of a relaxing space where friends could sit and chat and enjoy really good coffee.

Previously the owner of the local Coffee Culture franchise, Skinner was never able to take winter holidays or be away from the business for more than three or four days. When it opened, she had a one month old infant and after 10 years of juggling work and family she decided to take time off and travel with her kids. Before long, she realized she really missed working, and the interactions with people. She loved the feeling of being plugged into the community, and being a gracious host.

As a franchisee, Skinner had no control over the menu she served so the new business is a chance to really express herself.

“I can create my own brand and serve what I want,” she said. “My friends all say, ‘This is so you.’”

She describes the café’s aesthetic as modern meets history. She wanted to modernize the space without destroying any of the period charm.

The new interior features a soaring ceiling, a welcoming fireplace, relaxing seating and exposed brick columns.

The name of the café is a nod to the year when the building was erected. In the intervening 120 years it has gone

through many iterations, housing a grocery store, and antique store and numerous other businesses.

The doors opened in January, and so far business has been good.

“There are a lot of younger people looking for a gathering place,” said Skinner.

Currently, 1904 Social Haus is open until 4 p.m. daily but Skinner has applied for a liquor licence and envisions eventually opening Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.

She has no plans to become a full service restaurant and wants to keep it a place where people can come and go casually, with no pressure to order a full meal.

Plans are in the works for a Mother’s Day event. Skinner is planning a flower arranging workshop, a painter will be on site doing watercolours, and a simple snack bar. It will be a ticketed event to benefit a local women’s shelter. She is very committed to giving back to the community.

“In a small town, we have to help each other,” she said.

Skinner grew up in Seoul and when she came to Stayner thought people were overly concerned with one another’s business but her mindset soon changed.

“In a small town people are always doing things together and people really care about their neighbours,” observed Skinner.

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