Where I work: The Raven Espresso Boutique

Chantelle Buote’s cafe—a bright teal, vintage trailer—is all about Spryfield.

Rachel McGrath

"Coffee vibes are good vibes," Chantelle Buote says as she crafts an iced latte. Buote is the owner of The Raven Espresso Boutique, a coffee shop that operates out of a vintage 1969 trailer. She didn't plan to open a coffee trailer, but she took what the universe placed in her lap. When Buote stumbled across an advertisement for the trailer, outfitted with a fully functioning propane-powered Italian espresso machine, she knew it was more than a good omen. "Everybody told me I was crazy, but I knew how special this was," Buote says.

The Raven is permanently parked behind St. Michael's Catholic Church on Herring Cove Road. Last year, she brought the trailer to farmers' markets and other events around the HRM. "But my customers started telling me that they couldn't find me," she says. "So, I decided to stay put right in the heart of Spryfield." Again, everyone told Buote that she was crazy. "They couldn't understand why I wanted to be in Spryfield," she says. "But I knew I couldn't be the only person living here who wanted more than Tim's or McDonald's."

Over the years, Buote worked as a cocktail waitress, bartender and caterer—but she always came back to coffee. "When you serve people coffee, you get to contribute to their happiness," Buote says. When she was younger, she felt pressured to seek out a "real" career, but then she realized that a job in the service industry didn't have to be transitional or temporary. Her grandmother worked as a teller at TD Bank for decades simply because she loved helping people. Following in those footsteps, Buote decided to make a career out of being a friendly barista. 

Buote uses Java Blend's Fog City for her coffee and espresso, and carries loose leaf teas from World Tea House. For snacks, she sells Glory Pops, a new hand-crafted local popsicle business, and baked goods from Tart & Soul, including vegan granola bars. "I use the best of the best," she says.

Buote has noticed that there is an increasing amount of young people moving to Spryfield, largely because of its affordability and proximity to the city. As a result, The Raven is becoming a go-to for the community's caffeine fix. Customers have told her that they have been waiting for years for a cafe like hers. Eventually, Buote would like to open a storefront coffee shop, but she would have to compete with herself. There is no way she plans to close the trailer, not that her customers would let her. "The Raven is about Spryfield," she says. "I've made a commitment to the future of our community, and I want to see it do well."

The vintage trailer’s original teal colour just happens to be Buote’s favourite. “Pretty much everything in my life was already teal,” she says. A translucent, gauzy awning keeps the serving window out of the sun, and a picnic table provides a spot to linger. The decorations inside the trailer are a mix of old and new. There is an abstract wooden carving of a fish that was commissioned by an old customer and a painting of a white raven that friends made during a live art session. Over time, Chantelle has collected a hodgepodge of trinkets, such as a pair of brass keys, a dashboard hula girl and plastic mushrooms and garden gnomes. Slowly, she established a whimsical theme modelled after her own style. “It’s mystical, magical fun,” she says. “Usually, you have to conform at the workplace, but this is just who I am.” 

Rachel McGrath

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