It’s the Tuesday before Ramblers is set to reopen just off the corner of Nora Bernard and Maynard streets, and co-owners Elly Hannon and Adam Pye are obsessing over the espresso bar’s finishing touches. The wall-mounted menu board has just arrived, and it’s bigger than anticipated—“People are going to be able to read it, right?” Pye jokes. (To this observer, it’s perfectly-sized.) All around the two, the coffee shop is taking shape. Tool belts, ladders and paint cans abound. On Monday, April 17, the north end venue’s doors will reopen for the first time since Sourwood Cider announced it was closing up its cider bar (within which Ramblers had been operating) at the end of February.
Sourwood’s owner, Jake Foley, had floated the possibility of selling the bar to Hannon and Pye in 2022, they tell The Coast. They were already friends. Pye had worked in the kitchen at Sourwood, and he and Foley played bass and fiddle in the house band. Plus, Ramblers had gotten its start at Sourwood as a small-scale shop in 2021.
“[Jake] approached us just because he wanted to keep it close to home if possible—keep the coffee here,” Pye says, sitting at the wall-length bar bench that remains a nod to Sourwood’s history. Foley plucked the wood from the old Dalplex’s bleacher boards. The bench still retains the bleacher numbers.
“We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to make [his offer] work,” Pye adds. “And now it’s going to be Ramblers on its own.”
And while a good deal of the new Ramblers (5576 Nora Bernard Street) will be familiar to Sourwood’s faithful, Pye and Hannon are excited to add their own touches to the space—from an expanded breakfast menu to rotating bar taps and more live shows.
Small-batch, big vision
It was two years ago in October that Hannon and Pye, partners in both life and business, opened their coffee-shop-within-a-bar at the popular north end craft cidery, alongside fellow small-scale venture Beverly Taco Service. Both came into the venture with a love for coffee: Hannon had worked the espresso machine at The Tare Shop, while Pye had plied his craft at The Nook, among other Halifax cafes.
“We kind of took a chance and started it as a pop-up, in a sense, and bought a really small, high-end home machine and went from there,” Pye tells The Coast. “Now it’s spiraled into something completely different.”
That “different” now includes their own specialty Ramblers blend of coffee, roasted by fellow north enders Espresso 46. It also brought Hannon and Pye into the realm of booking live music shows—a staple of Sourwood that both are eager to continue.
“It’s a small, intimate space,” Pye says. “We can have different types of music here than some other venues in Halifax because of the size—”
“—It’s like a Tiny Desk concert,” Hannon adds. “Also, I think in general, people are looking for places to just hang out and, like, reconnect and be. So hopefully this can continue to be a space all day, all evening, for lots of different people.”
The two see the new and future Ramblers as a venue that’s “very day-to-night”: Coffee will be served six days a week, starting at 7:30am, with hopes of expanding to seven-day-a-week service. Beer, wine and cider will be on tap, starting at 11am. On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, the espresso bar will roll over into a nighttime concert venue with space for 30-40 guests. Hannon and Pye have brought the production of their baked goods in-house—“We’re gonna keep the scones, because people won’t let us not do that,” Pye says. They’ve also added bagels and breakfast sandwiches to the menu.
And while Sourwood’s name isn’t on the front door anymore, Pye and Hannon say they’ll be keeping two spots on their taps for the ciders, while bringing in some other Halifax craft beer favourites.
So what else is next?
“It’s always been very much, like, grow as we go,” Hannon says. “It’s been simple first, and then grow as we need to. And it happens that we’ve been growing.”