Grit Studio: where art, craft furniture, vintage finds come with a cup of java in Port Moody

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      Grit Studio is probably the only café where visitors can enjoy a latte and pastry, then order the unique chair they’re sitting on to go.

      While they’re at it, they can also purchase art works on the walls and sculptures on display at the Port Moody spot.

      Clients can likewise find handcrafted soaps, honey, ceramics, and clothing at the café, art gallery, and lifestyle shop that opened last summer amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

      In addition, customers can pay for vintage items they fancy, from old cameras to typewriters, rotary phones, and radios.

      Grit is a partnership between Cezar Salaveria, a designer and furniture and lighting craftsman, and Rosette Samaniego, the restaurateur behind the Kulinarya Filipino Eatery in both Vancouver and Coquitlam.

      “Imagine a place where people can walk in and, literally, just buy anything,” Salaveria told the Straight in a phone interview.

      An artisan by trade, Salaveria made most of the furnishings at Grit, a place that he designed to feel almost like a home.

      As an art gallery, the Port Moody establishment seeks to celebrate works of local artists.

      “Here you can have your coffee and relax and look on the walls and see some new art,” Salaveria said.

      The colourful canvases of visual artist Kimberly Blackstock of Port Coquitlam were the first to be featured at Grit. The creations of “sculptural woodworker” Chris Wong were also there.

      On display at present until February are the works of young artists Kai Liu and Yuan Wen. Starting in March, Tony Durke of New Westminster and Shannon Thiesen of Abbotsford will have their pieces shown.

      It makes Salaveria happy to notice visitors rarely on their phones and electronic devices and just being in the moment at Grit.

      “People are actually having real conversations and connections,” he said.

      The experience also validates Grit’s mission of making art more accessible. “It resonates with more people from the community to be actually seeing art in a more casual setting,” Salaveria said.

      Salaveria and Samaniego want to meet more artists, makers, artisans, and craftspeople so Grit can showcase their work.

      Grit opened its doors last August, a move that may have seemed counterintuitive, as many establishments were struggling in the face of the pandemic.

      But as Salaveria related, he and Samaniego couldn’t think of a better time. “People need a place to feel good,” he said. “It might sound really strange, but, yeah, I guess call it a mission, a commitment.”

      Grit is located at 2419 Clarke Street in the original commercial centre of Port Moody. It occupies the space of the former Silk Gallery. It’s a heritage property, one described by the Canadian Register of Historic Places as a rare surviving example of a “boomtown” commercial building.

      The two-storey wood-frame building was originally built for the P. Burns and Co. Butcher Shop circa 1908 to 1909.

      Salaveria recalled that he and Samaniego had always wanted the place. When it became available in 2020, the business partners made a go for it.

      “We thought if there would be any good time to open, it would be now,” he said. Salaveria added that he and Samaniego couldn’t imagine bringing to life their concept of a café, art gallery, and lifestyle shop in a brand-new building.

      Grit Studio is located at a heritage spot that is a rare surviving example of a “boomtown” building.

      Grit is also a testament to the courage and determination of immigrants. Before moving to Canada with his family, Salaveria directed short films and music videos in the Philippines. He also worked in commercial advertising.

      “What if you have one lifetime and the question to myself was, would I prefer to live that one lifetime in one place or is it possible to also live other lifetimes in a different place?” Salaveria asked.

      In 2009, he and his wife and their two children made Canada their new home. “It worked really good for the kids. I see them thriving,” Salaveria said.

      Salaveria pursued his passion for creative work in his adopted country. For his first job, he landed a position as artisan and finisher with 3DS (Three Dimensional Services), a design and fabrication company where he continues to work today.

      As a 3DS craftsman, he worked with the installations of giant bear, wolf, and heron sculptures at the Tsawwassen Mills shopping centre in Delta.

      Samaniego, for her part, opened Kulinarya in Coquitlam in 2009. She and her family are originally from Manila. She followed up with a Commercial Drive location in Vancouver in 2017.

      Salaveria met Samaniego while he was at Kulinarya in Coquitlam about five years ago.

      “We instantly became friends,” Salaveria said, “and talked of collaborating on a project: a gallery and lifestyle store where I and other artists and artisans can showcase their works, [and] a café where Rosette can expand her talent and skills with food—basically a creative hub where art can be more accessible to the community and a catalyst for creative minds and pursuits.”

      Salaveria noted that Grit was not originally conceived as a business plan. He said that it was more of imagining the kind of place into which he and Samaniego would want to walk.

      “It was initiated by a personal need: a yearning for something more than just a café or an art gallery or a lifestyle store,” Salaveria said.

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