New Port Moody café is a fusion of coffee, art and design

Cezar Salaveria thinks art and design should spark conversation. And what better place to converse than a coffee shop.

So when the former filmmaker turned furniture craftsman found a kindred spirit in restaurateur Rose Samaniego, the wheels were put into motion three years ago to fuse their complementary passions.

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But it wasn’t until Samaniego happened to be driving along Port Moody’s Clarke Street last spring the pieces of their shared dream clicked into place.

The Filipino ex-pats have just opened GRIT, their coffee, art and lifestyle shop, in the heritage space formerly occupied by the Silk Gallery.

Salaveria and Samaniego are hoping their venture will help fill the void left by the closure of one of the last commercial galleries in the City of the Arts, as well as the loss of nearby Bistro Gallery in a fire last year, but in a more eclectic, accessible way.

While Samaniego brings her culinary knowledge from running her Kulinarya Filipino restaurants, in Coquitlam and Vancouver, Salaveria curates the decor. Both approach their responsibilities with a sense of fun and discovery.

“When we conceptualized the store, we wanted to get into the human psyche,” Salaveria said. “We wanted to create a character out of a place.”

Think quirky uncle or unconventional aunt.

Much of the furniture is crafted by Salaveria and includes a settee carved from an old fibreglass stand-alone bathtub and a chair comprised of hundreds of individual little planks glued together. Many of the knick-knacks and curios like tin toys, desktop microphones, vintage cameras and rotary dial phones are from his own collection, as is some of the art on the walls.

Salaveria said the hope is, as the shop becomes more known, local artists will be able to showcase their work on the walls.

The goal, he added, is to keep everything fresh, so visitors might see something new or that they hadn’t noticed before, every time they walk through the door.

“There’s a sense of discovery that you never expect to find art in a place like this,” Salaveria said.

Presenting everyday objects like old phones and toy soldiers as art elevates appreciation for the thought and creativity that’s gone into their form and function but also democratizes the idea of what comprises art.

“It’s art they can use,” Samaniego said. “It’s very approachable and relatable, you don’t just look at it. People respond to that.”

• To learn more about GRIT, go to www.gritstudio.ca.

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