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Dartmouth hearts Two If By Sea

On Nov. 6, Two If By Sea celebrated one year of business in the only way it knows how: croissants, caffeine, and community. Regulars from Dartmouth and Halifax showed up in hordes to take advantage of the day’s $1 drink special.

The Dartmouth café is packed, even by its own busy standards. Patrons are waiting anxiously amidst “Happy Birthday” streamers that wind around crammed, chattering tables from Two If By Sea’s counter to its doors.
On Nov. 6, Two If By Sea celebrated one year of business in the only way it knows how: croissants, caffeine, and community. Regulars from Dartmouth and Halifax showed up in hordes to take advantage of the day’s $1 drink special.
Amidst the mayhem, co-owner Tara MacDonald is hurriedly working dough into the flaky creations so desired by customers. The wall above her counter displays photographs and thankyou notes from patrons, which would only multiply as the day went on. Their repeated congratulatory exclamations are a testament to the café’s status in the neighbourhood.
Later that evening, MacDonald and co-owner Zane Kelsall were informed they had won the Halifax Fusion Innovation Award. It was an appropriate birthday gift. They were praised for “their contributions to the vibe and energy in downtown Dartmouth and a broader strengthened sense of community,” according to the award website.
The café’s “I Heart Dartmouth” campaign was the clincher for the award. A sign encouraging patrons to “Show off your Dartmouth pride” anchors the display of t-shirts and pins available for purchase. The slogan became synonymous with the business and its community mandate.
“Honest to God, I love this place. I wouldn’t be anywhere else. I’ve lived all over Canada and I would not go anywhere else,” says MacDonald.
An Ottawa native, the croissant creator moved to Halifax in September 2008. Armed with music industry business experience and a passion for baking, she set up a stall at the Alderney Landing Farmers’ Market. She met Kelsall soon after.
“It got so busy so fast, I knew I could do something bigger. The entrepreneurial spirit kicked in,” she said.
They were encouraged to start a café across the harbour, but their presence at the market had established an essential client base for their business in Dartmouth.
Along with Kelsall, she bought the space at 66 Ochterloney Street, located just a few blocks from the ferry terminal. According to MacDonald, it was busy on the first day. Many shoppers acquainted with the Alderney Landing stall became regulars at Two If By Sea.
“Not a day goes by that we don’t feel lucky,” says MacDonald with a smile. “People have been really good to us. It says a lot about the community.”
The popularity of the café rose primarily by word of mouth. Now, Facebook has become another venue for Two If By Sea to promote its product and sense of community.
“It’s our online café, basically,” says MacDonald, explaining that if she and Kelsall don’t have the opportunity to talk to patrons in the store, they at least try to connect with them using the social networking site.
With over 2,500 fans on Facebook and an ever-increasing patronage, Two If by Sea has surprisingly quiet plans for the year to come.
“We’re good where we are right now. We like where we’re going. One of the big mistakes people make is trying to get too big out of the gate too fast,” says MacDonald.
They’re focusing instead on small renovations such as the addition of another bathroom, expanding the back workroom and adding about ten seats. More importantly, according to MacDonald, is the opportunity to begin balancing life and having a business after such a hectic first year.

By David J. Shuman

David is a second-year journalism student at King's, is engagement/news editor of The Watch, and a copy editor of The Pigeon. He writes on student politics, campus happenings, and school news. 

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