Musette Caffé and Tours, Vancouver
Will Ross, February 12, 2018
The mountains north of Vancouver help to define the city’s alpine culture, with locals regularly seen clomping around the city centre in ski boots or else en route to a local climbing spot. Influences from the world of road cycling have burrowed into Vancouver more recently, partly aided by the town’s robust infrastructure for cyclists, but also the inevitable pull of an international city that has a knack for pinching positive urbanism from elsewhere.
Cycling cafe Musette Caffé has been at the forefront of Vancouver’s two-wheeled scene for several years, helping stamp the sport and its European culture with real estate within the city centre. After four years in a secluded spot in Chinatown, Musette opened its doors on the popular Burrard Street at the beginning of 2017, welcoming Vancouver’s cyclists and coffee enthusiasts to an enlarged venue with impressive frontage.
Named after the small tote bags used to pass food and drinks between cyclists and their support teams, Musette takes a serious approach to supplying its customer’s with freshly prepared salads, sandwiches and, of course, locally-sourced coffee. Cycling memorabilia decks the walls, including famous jerseys, vintage frames and a gallery of musettes for good measure. In furnishings, sections of a dismantled velodrome in Antwerp, Belgium were shipped to Vancouver and fashioned into appealing tables for use at a slower pace, more familiar to the town’s discerning coffee folk.
Musette’s offering goes well beyond the requirements of a bona fide cycling cafe with services extending to guided rides with Musette Tours and bike rental out of the store. Visitors to Vancouver will appreciate the guidance and camaraderie of morning rides, and can enjoy the rental of a top-end Pinarello frame. Runners are also able to use Musette Tours to explore local trails at any speed – lead guide, Sebastian, holds the record for the Grouse Grind, as a marker of talent and local fame.
Here’s more about the Musette, from its owner, Thomas Eleizegui:
How did the different backgrounds and skills of founders converge to create Musette?
This was a passion project from the start. When I opened up Musette in 2012 there really was no place to watch races and wanted to create a cool cycling-centric cafe. After four years in operation, my lease was up due to contraction of a new building, we either had to relocate or close the business. Long story short, I ended up with a business partner and reopened in our new location.
During the one year of building out I reached out to my friend and ex-local pro Sebastian Salas to set up Musette Tours, to do a rental and guide business for hiking and cycling. We thought Vancouver has such beautiful backyard to play with so why not use it. Our guided trips focused on a riding or hiking experience where the client definitely gets their workout in, and at the same time takes in what Vancouver has to offer. We call it “Wanderfit”.
Did you each agree on the direction of the business from the start? Was there always a physical component?
There was always a physical part to it, and it still will be evolving as we speak. We have new projects coming up that will benefit the cafe and the tour company. The cafe is the foundation for the tours and whatever is coming up in the near future.
Which priorities did you set when designing the space?
Authenticity is/was #1. I collected all the memorabilia over 10 years before I decided to open the cafe. I wanted customers to feel at home and learn something new when they come in. 80% of my clients don’t even ride a bike but they appreciate the environment. I just wanted to offer things that I thought were the best even though it may cost a bit more or less, but the quality is there. The toughest part is definitely the food side of things. I am learning something new every day.
When it came to inviting other cyclists to enjoy Musette, what surprised you? Were your expectations met?
I think they were surprised. Our first location was located in the back alley and had a club house feel to it. I really miss it, I won’t lie, but the new location is for sure a stunning cafe. I was just surprised at how many non cyclists frequent the cafe.
How do you define Musette’s outlook within cycling?
Ha thats a good question… In the end it’s probably how I define the outlook because cycling can have such a bad rap with doping etc… I am not shy so I will express things through certain items I have showcased in the cafe, or even the names of some foods just to poke fun at the whole sport.
What can members expect from Musette in the coming two years?
That’s something I can’t discuss at the moment until everything is signed on the dotted line but we are working on a new project that would really define us and who we are. Hopefully a lifestyle brand.
Head to musettecaffe.com for the latest, or route directly to 1325 Burrard Street when you’re next in Vancouver.