Benji’s Coffee and Patisserie moves from pop-up to permanent as the first business in the new Memorial Marketplace in Belleville.
Benjamin Batelaan, 23, has been running his bakery and coffee shop as a pop-up shop at Zwicks Park for the past three years, and says that it was finally time to build his own foundation.
“I just kind of outgrew the pop-ups,” he says. “The whole purpose of the pop-ups was to let new vendors move into storefronts and I wanted to move into something more permanent and official.”
He first met with Joe Shunock, the main contact for the growing Memorial Marketplace. He helped Batelaan put himself in for the draw for who would get the storefront, which Shunock said had a huge amount of interest:
“My online post had almost two thousand hits in 48 hours. It just shows you there is a massive level of interest. It’s been six years of work on the memorial deal with the city and it’s great to see it come together.”
Growing up local to the Belleville area allowed Batelaan to turn to his family to help get the place up and running. As the sixth of 10 children, Batelaan called on his brothers, sisters, parents and in-laws to help him build his dream coffee shop. The main request of the building’s owners, Taskforce Engineering, was that he maintain the historical aspects of the building.
And not only did Batelaan hold true to his word – relying on the exposed break and open ceiling to lend what he called a “rustic-industrial vibe” to his coffeehouse, but he also delved into the history of the place to learn as much as he could about how the Memorial building has impacted Belleville through the decades.
“It was built in 1929 as a scale house with horses and carriages coming in to get weighed and their goods sold in the market right next door. I think this was until the ‘40s or ‘50s. I have no idea what it was between then and the ‘90s, though I heard there was once a bar here. There’s next to no record, and I’ve learned most from the owners and whatever digging I could find.”
Benji’s Coffee and Patisserie is the first in a long line of shops and vendors expected to fill the marketplace. While Batelaan doesn’t know who his neighbours will be, he says he looks forward to seeing the place experience a new life.
“Whatever comes in next, it’s going to be beautiful with the mix of modern and historical,” agreed Shunock. “Benji’s has really set the tone for the place and everything else will follow.”