By MAGGIE M, Wedgee-in-Chief, Editor, theWedge.LIVE ❤️ TO SHARE click icons at story’s end
Kemptville is a wonder to many outsiders like myself, but it is a great, booming story begging to be told. This town is the heart of North Grenville, a fast-growing municipality thanks to migration from urban centres across Ontario.
The views of the Rideau River in the heart of Kemptville are some of the most unspoiled along the way. You would never know that steps off the vessel are gourmet restaurants and shops.
I can attest, Kemptvillians are kind, generous and they enjoy a good laugh. They don’t take themselves too seriously. You’ll notice this when you visit seven of its renown establishments and meet their founders. There is a common thread.
Follow me on my discovery marathon through this wonderful town’s popular haunts.
B & H YOUR COMMUNITY GROCER
“Smile Jim!”, I implored Jim Beveridge, Owner, B & H Your Community Grocer. “When I smile my eyes close!,” he replied. It was a dilemma–eyes or smile. We opted for the latter. This is a classic Kemptville conversation, authentic and quirky. These are my people.
Beveridge would blush at these words, but he is an ambassador to this town’s industry. He cares about this town’s progress beyond the norm. I witnessed his brain’s Dewey system pull-up a number of facts and events–on many occasions–that could run my pen dry.
His wife Judy and he are a team working long hours stocking and merchandising this truly independent grocery store. If you want to have to have coffee with Beveridge, it’s either standing in the produce aisle or alongside his favorite home-grown brand, B & H Grenville Grass, grass-fed beef. Bring the coffee.
I must dedicate a few words on this visionary grocer. Beveridge is the only purveyor within the immediate region of locally sourced, grass-fed year-round beef. This means no grain in the winter. The health benefits of this beef are touted by pundits in nutrition. It is unparalleled for its K2 vitamin content–excellent for bone development, teeth, gums, joints, brain and more. It is critical in the absorption of vitamin D. Supplier Upper Canada Creamery, Iroquois, makes dairy products with the same grass-fed diet and B & H supplies it too.
You can’t miss B & H when you turn on Rideau St. toward Old Town Kemptville–it has the largest parking lot. Beveridge shares this precious real estate with the Farmers’ Market every Sunday, as he is also a champion of local, small farmers. No surprise here. The irony is B&H is renown for its locally sourced produce, dairy and meats. His benevolent mindset is noteworthy.
B & H was founded by Beveridge’s father in 1963. When his father’s health waned, he sold a second location in Osgoode and took over in Kemptville in 2005. The town wears him well.
Around the corner from B&H, historical Grahame’s Bakery dates back to 1885. It was formerly owned by Bert Frisby. It changed hands when Leonard Grahame purchased the bakery in 1960 while in his employ. Today, his grandchildren, a sister-brother team, Deb Wilson and Rick Grahame, run the operation hands-on.
The building’s exterior is unremarkable–you could easily miss its white clapboard exterior. Yet, Grahame’s Bakery is legendary and busy.
It is also a “Monty Python Flour Circus.” There are no seats to watch the baking show–customers walk up a ramp into the shop and egress out with goodies by-the-dozen. Noticeably, visitors just seemed to linger. There is nostalgia in this place, but also quite a few bellows.
While Grahame is entertaining, the star of the show is its 18 ft. wide, 18 ft. deep wood-fired brick oven. It’s over 125-years old with some new bricks in the mix. It’s also a heritage artifact and a national treasure. Each morning Grahame fires it up with cedar chips. It’s able to maintain high temperatures all day–and bakes quickly. This is not a business that suffers under the weight of hydro bills.
You may acquire a moniker as you get to know Grahame. I was introduced to the “Grand Poobah” and heard them discuss, “Mother Superior.” No one needs a real name–just attitude.
A visit downtown just isn’t complete without stepping into this place.
The powdery, soft lemon-curd infused donuts and apple fritters are not to be outdone by Grahame wit. The butter tarts are acclaimed. Bread, croissants, cinnamon rolls and cookies move onto the shelves and out the door all day long. Grahame’s supplies many shops and cafes in town too. And the custom cake business churns continuously.
“I get up at 2:30 am,” Grahame opines. Such are bakers’ hours–crazy early to bed and crazy early to rise. Preparation is everything in baking. I discovered the living meaning of hard work on this revelation.
There is a layer of flour on everything in the shop–even his iphone and travel pics to England including Dame Judi Dench. She looked radiant with a soft filter of flour.
Co-owner, Deb Wilson, is another champion of downtown businesses as head of the Kemptville BIA. Moments after this photo, she was off to a Chamber of Commerce meeting.
She left a career as a designer for Nygard to follow in her father’s footsteps when he passed in 2005. So too, Grahame, left his work out West managing a hay business to join his sister in continuing this legacy.
CLASS AXE GUITARS
Bob Besharah is known to almost everyone in town, but also to the music industry at large. He owns and operates, Class Axe Guitars, a top-rated guitar shop on Hwy. 44, highly visible from Hwy. 43 with its iconoclastic, yellow “Western saloon” storefront.
I imagined I would meet a “cowboy” as I entered the shop–and so I did. Besharah did not mind this identity; in fact, he liked it. I asked what type of hat he wore and he replied, “It’s a Shady Brady.” This is a cowboy hat through ‘n through.
It’s humorous how he sees himself as “old.” He seems in excellent form, healthier than most people his age. The man is fit–like a cowboy. Running a business six days-a-week and a music festival demands it.
Besharah enjoys the universe of instruments and music over performing; this is a quest he no longer pursues. Evidently, he likes to be of service to other musicians. The parking sign outside states, “Musicians Only.” (You can also tie-up your horse.)
These intimations were not easy to glean from Besharah. He does not like the attention or the spotlight. I felt a measure of guilt doing my work–not all souls should be exposed to our pens. He understood saying, “I am an escape artist.” You cannot be this renown and remain unknown–though he tries.
At one point he yelped, “Don’t write that down!” I bellowed in laughter as he made a near dive for my pen. The inclination to stop, put my notebook away and just enjoy his company was strong. It’s not often you meet someone with both grit and humility.
When I asked who was his favorite artist, without missing a beat he said, “Greg Allman.”
He was downcast sharing that Allman passed away last year. It was Besharah’s hope to bill him at the Kemptville LIVE Music Festival, an event he founded with his friend, Karen Bedard.
“I love his soul, his voice,” Besharah adds. Allman was loved by many and known as a kind, humble artist. His lyrics and music were resoundingly about love. This informs the gentle soul that is this Kemptville leader, who arrived 25 years ago with uncommon vision.
“I think too big,” Besharah says. This would be true if his thoughts did not bear fruit. But his “too big” idea is now one of the biggest music festivals in the nation.
The Kemptville LIVE Music Festival, in its fourth year is featuring The Beach Boys, Loverboy and Jann Arden among other notables this July 18-22. Up to 20,000 visitors are expected in town–that’s five times its population.
Everyone is preparing for this event, to be held on the edge of town at the former, sprawling Guelph U. Campus.
Kemptville will find itself in more selfies than ever in its history.
In 2013, Kika Smith came into ownership of the beautiful cafe where she previously was an employee–a response to tragedy and circumstances of its previous owners. Brewed Awakenings on Hwy. 43 is well into its second life.
A brief partnership with a young woman who has since stepped down to become the cafe’s bean roaster, Rideau Roastery, declared Smith the sole business owner in 2014.
“It was scary,” she replied when I asked her if she found the shift from employee to business owner daunting. It is clear Smith has eased into entrepreneurial life well.
Her two daughters, Alyssa and Alex, work alongside. Their chemistry is infectious. The whole staff seems to bristle with a cheerful countenance. This team spirit is the real sweetener in this cafe.
Brewed Awakenings is beautifully appointed, a restful place with stuffed leather couches and cool air. As a writer this would be my place to park, sip and eat until deadline.
The store exterior, the anchor tenant to a strip mall, is distinctive and perfect for outdoor lovers with patio seating all around. It is easy on the camera’s eye.
The cafe’s menu is extensive featuring unique roasted coffee beans frothed into Americanos, lattes and cappuccinos. Their beans–Guatemalan, Peruvian and Columbian–are sold by the pound or half-pound for home brewing. The choice of teas are extensive, loose leaf and bagged.
Among the many custom made desserts, the pear cheesecake gets 5-stars. Then there is those Toblerone-buttery cookies… Sandwiches made from famous wood-fired Grahame’s bread, salads, soups and pastas are prepared fresh by Smith daily.
The cafe opens at 6:00am and closes at 7:00pm (except 5:00pm on Saturdays and 8:00am to 4:00pm on Sundays); so, you can catch breakfast, lunch or dinner at Brewed Awakenings. The menu has it all. I’ll be back.
NATURE’S WAY SELECT FOODS & BREWED SUPPLIES
Gerty Tenbult founded Nature’s Way Select Foods & Brewing Supplies 25 years ago, most of its history at its current location on Hwy. 43. This writer is well acquainted with natural health shops and their unique merchandise. This shop was exceptional–outstanding–for its broad selection, and well-stocked on every conceivable dietary and health needs.
The wine and beer supplies in its extended name is just that : supplies. These customers prefer to prepare their libations at home.
“Our customers are more aware and into self-care,” says Tenbult. This epithet describes this writer in a nutshell.
Tenbult works with six on staff, all trained with relevant nutrition and natural health courses under their belts. Each day they deal with customers who share their challenges with inflammation, anxiety, sleep, weight and nutrition. The store offers so many safe solutions.
Tenbult took me for a tour of the shop’s 2000 sq.ft. I realize why as we progressed.
Procurement is clearly this woman’s greatest accolade–and so it should be. I have looked high and low for products and here they were–all. Hard-to-find organic bone broth, grass-fed butter and even non-toxic cosmetics and perfumes–all under one roof.
Prepared vegan meals, paleo and keto foods, organic meats, kombucha, kefir, gluten and dairy free–all stocked. In fact, the shop even carries paper straws–a trendy product sought globally at this very moment.
I was impressed by the number of Canadian manufacturers especially in the supplement aisles including AOR and Pure Lab Vitamins.
The shop is open seven days a week. Sunday would be ideal to visit both the shop and the famous, Kemptville Farmers’ Market. I reflect, “I can kill two birds with one stone” but that’s a terrible idiom in this healthy context.
Rob Thompson, Owner, Kemptville Suites, has a wealth of knowledge on property development and lifestyle experiences. Accordingly, this brand depicts the prime property as “Suite Boutique Hotel Rooms.”
There are not many accommodations such as these in our nation–the closest would be in old Quebec city or Old Montreal. Intimate, historic boutique hotels are highly sought by seasoned travelers.
The Kemptville Suites are preferred accommodations, often sold-out weeks in advance, all seven of them. The suites are so beautiful and smartly appointed, and well stocked, you hardly feel the urge to step-out
This hotel is also the answer for romantics. Although many well-heeled visitors and celebrities have discovered this place, so too have couples looking for an escape.
World travelers could easily settle-in on a longer journey, using the Suites as a foothold. Ottawa is only 30 minutes to downtown; the Rideau River and the St. Lawrence can be accessed from mere minutes to an hour.
The Suites feel like home with its historic beams, stone surfaces, deep set windows, stuffed couches and fireplaces. There is no cookie-cutter replication among them.
“Complimentary,” is a repeated theme. Wi-Fi, free Netflix, parking, bottled water, coffee, tea and snacks are all complimentary. The jitters you get in hotels for using these creature comforts will depart from you–and your closing costs.
All suites feature quality appliances in a near-complete kitchen. This is wonderful for guests who become too pooped from daytime adventures to step-out yet again.
Trip Advisor has acclaimed the Suites with their Certificate of Excellence every year since it opened in 2015. The reviews from guests border on the rapturous–one woman glowed about the inclusion of a Nespresso machine.
There is no common area in the building other than a front or back door and the halls that lead to your suite. Guests enter a personal code to gain entry obtained on signing-up. There is no checking-in delays and the usual theatre that comes with it. You arrive, park and enter.
KEMPTVILLE FARMERS’ MARKET
The Kemptville Farmers’ Market started 12 years ago with only four vendors behind a restaurant–and hope! They eventually moved to Riverside Park until B & H Your Community Grocer opened its current space to them approximately five years ago.
Today, it features 41 full-time and part-time vendors (they must be located within 55 kms to participate in the market.) The variety is impressive and the atmosphere, cheery.
“I hear repeatedly that we are one of the biggest farmers’ markets in Ontario,” says Kelly Broad, Manager, Kemptville Farmer’s Market.
Broad is a local, Certified Holistic Nutritionist. She also completed the Ontario Farmers’ Market Manager Certification last May; this informs her leadership of this fast-growing traffic draw to Kemptville.
“We are an independent, non-profit, incorporated organization run by volunteers. We don’t get government funding,” adds Broad.
It was sweet to see the vendors howl out numbers at the market’s close, 4:00pm, with a chance to win in a “50/50 draw”–undeterred by the skies collapsing in a downpour. There is a palpable “esprit de corps” here.
Visit with a few vendors below and the longer list to absorb the Kemptville Farmers’ Market real substance.
And finally, popular music performances by Fiddlehead Soup, Kemptville, added verve to this shopping event. Brown-Eyed Girl sung with friends joining-in was a nostalgic delight.
The List of Vendors :
- Another Chapter Publishing : local authors & publishers, children’s books
- B’S Bubbles : soaps, bath bombs
- Bee Wild : herbal creams, lotions, insect repellents, skin creams
- Celebrate Cakes! : cupcakes with home-grown berries, rhurbarb, lavender
- Claire Kerr Farms : seasonal vegetables, corn
- Granniebeck : hand knitted /crocheted afghans, hats, shawls and baking
- Grenville Herb Farms : Herbs
- Katzlaser Works : wooden creations from keychains to puzzles
- Harwood Estates : wine
- Hotheaded Peppers : home-grown rooftop peppers created into hot sauces
- Jardin Rochon Gardens : seasonal vegetables, potted flowers
- Jenny’s Jams : homemade jam preserves & deserts with berries from the garden
- Nature’s Cupboard and Sassy Bee Keeper : honey and beeswax products,
- Apocalypse Farms : honey, micro greens ready-to-cut, sprouts, vegetables
- On the Bend Sugar Shack : Maple syrup and maple products
- Karberry Farms : raw wool, hand-dyed wool, knitting items, free-range fowl
- Grandpa’s Kitchen : home-grown greens, preserves, sauerkraut and jams
- Kidztastic : kid co-op, seedlings, smoothies, “100 kids who care” charity
- Occasionally : Mountain Man wood turning , vases, pens, bowls
- Two Bears : native artifacts, stone pipes, carvings, necklaces, knives
- Amandazzle : home made slime, scarves, playdough, and other crafts
- Just like Grandma Use to Make : homemade and home-grown preserves
- Capener’s Creations : soup mixes, soups, meat rubs and spice mixes
- Lois’s Originals : re-purposed hand-sewn sachets, hats, cowls, home decor
- Barkley’s Orchard : strawberries, apples, apple products, honey, fruit trees
- Keewaytin Farms : meats, sausages, takes orders for turkeys for Thanksgiving
- Little Windows Farms : vegetables, greens, eggs, fowl
- Just Farms : vegetables, onions, strawberries, tomatoes, corn, lettuce
- Retired Chef : homemade hummus, pita chips, Viking cake, cookies, salads
- Beacon Hill Farms : vegetables, homemade pies, sausage rolls, jams, cakes
- Joey’s Fine Foods : croissants, tea biscuits, artisan breads, macaroons, cakes
- Simply Catering : breads bakes from local wheat, spelt, gluten free, granolas
- Bailey’s Beads : hand-made jewelry
- Fairsun Farms : CERTIFIED Organic vegetables, plants, rose bouquets
- Food Vendors : Tandoori Mint, Siam Cuisine, Anastasias Perogies, Porky’s pulled-pork
- Trojan Acres : knitted items, crafts, framing services
- Fine Chocolate By Catherine : fine chocolates, marshmellows, home-grown berries
- Plot of Earth : vegetables, zucchinis, greens, beets, kale, kholrabi
- Pair of Gardens : vegetables, beets, greens, etc
- Casual-Ferguson Forestry Centre : seedlings and perennials
- Wooly Rideau Farms : hand-spun wool, vegetables, preserves