The burning* question on everyone’s mind: what is the new Fergie’s Cafe experience going to be? When it reopens in the spring, is it still going to feel like the Fergie’s Cafe we’re all used to, or will it be different altogether? Will we be able to go back to having some of that award-winning brunch? I managed to corner Jess Freese, who is the co-owner of Sunwolf Riverside Cabins and Fergie’s Cafe alongside her husband Jake, and asked the important questions.
ZW: First things first: the eggs benny. Please tell me we’re getting those back?
JF: I don’t think the District of Squamish would grant us any building permits at all if we took the bennies off the menu. They’re definitely staying!
ZW: Phew! Okay. So what else are we keeping?
JF: Picnic tables on the lawn near the river and views of the mountains, obviously. The dining trailer will be just the same, with the added charm of a slightly blackened exterior. The big beautiful black walnut tree that’s on our lawn is staying. We’ve actually taken extra care to build around that tree! And the menu really won’t be changed. You’ll still have our house smoked meats and fish, as well as vegan and gluten free options. We’re sourcing locally as much as possible too.
I mean we want to keep the overall vibe, really. We’ll have the Sunday caesars, the wood-burning fireplace, the playground, the food… You can bring your kids and your pups, everyone’s welcome! The spirit of Fergie’s won’t be changed. We want to bring back that space that feels like home.
ZW: Awesome! Now what can you tell us about the things that will be different?
JF: Obviously, people want Fergie’s to come back – the old Fergie’s blue shack. We would love to do that, but what steered us from a design perspective initially were some of the conditions that were placed upon us by the District of Squamish because of our location on the Cheekye Fan.
First of all, this is a rebuild only. That means the new cafe’s footprint has to be the same as the old one. Second, we’ve had to work with a geotechnical scientist, a geotechnical engineer and a structural engineer to build foundations that can withstand a torrent (a mixture of rock and water).
ZW: How will that then affect the look of the building?
JF: Well not only do we need castle-like foundations, but also have the building raised 2.5 metres off the ground. It became evident very quickly that we couldn’t just put a shanty old blue shack up in the air on concrete – it would look dreadful! So then we thought, if we’re not going make it like the old Fergie’s, let’s just forget what the old Fergie’s looked like and start afresh.
We will, as much as possible, have some little things that speak to the old cafe. We kept the burned out, blackened front door and that will go in somewhere. And that iconic Fergie’s blue is going to be subtly coming in as well. We’re not ready to totally forget what we had.
ZW: Are you worried at all about how your loyal customers will respond to the new, raised look?
JF: It’s different, there’s no denying that. We hope people will like it, but know that not everyone will. If we tried to appease as many people as possible, at the end of the day, we could have risked actually making nobody happy, not even ourselves, and what’s the point in that?
And there is a huge gain: since the new building has been raised, we can have a covered seating area beneath it, and we’re going to make it really comfortable. So to all our amazing customers who used to sit outside getting rain in their coffee: now you can stay dry!
ZW: Where are you at right now and what’s getting done next?
JF: We have our concrete torrent-proof foundations in place. We were keen to get those poured before the snow came. We spent the last few months working out a number of technical details before we were able to submit the second part of our permit application, which is for the main building. Now we’re just waiting for the District of Squamish to issue us with a permit and then we can really get to work! It’s a pretty complex project. We have a dozen different consultants working on bringing Fergie’s back!
ZW: It’s been a heck of a journey so far, with more to come, obviously. How are you feeling about it all?
JF: Excited. Terrified. First of all, we’re lucky that we can even rebuild. When we saw our cafe burn down, we genuinely thought that was the end of Fergie’s. Secondly though, we’re very lucky because the amount of support we received from the community has given us the courage to make some bold decisions. These decisions may appear foolhardy in a purely business sense, but speak to our values of lessening our impact on the environment. And we believe that we have the future business to carry it.
The number of people who are behind us in this close-knit community gives us the ability to say “this is worth it” and that’s really special.