City Bites

Morning Owl Coffeehouse Spreads Its Wings

Morning Owl devotees remember their delight when the first coffee shop launched in 2009. It prospered as a standalone for six years until, in 2015, owner Jordan O’Leary opened a second location on Bank Street and a mini shop on Elgin at Gladstone. And in 2016? A flock of Owls! The 1Eleven student residence on Cooper Street and William’s Court in Kanata are set to get spacious Morning Owls this spring/summer (both are open to the public), and the busy O’Leary is working on a deal for another Centretown spot for 2017.

City Bites Insider caught up with O’Leary just in time to get details on the upcoming Morning Owl Coffeehouses — and to quiz him about the sudden flurry of openings. Is Morning Owl the next Bridgehead, we wondered?

Morning Owl Coming Soon

The rapid expansion of Morning Owl has made this “Coming Soon!” sign a common one around town over the past two years.

You are on a roll! Tell us first about Cooper Street. We hear you’re set for a spring opening.

We’re planning for a May opening. Cooper is really cool. It’s in a new luxury student residence called 1Eleven — the old Holiday Inn on Cooper Street. The owners came to us. At first I wasn’t sure — it’s a tough crowd, it’s students, it’s eight months a year. It was a big decision.

But we figured out the logistics and the space is all being fitted to our specifications. We’re super-excited! It’s going to become our headquarters. It’s a gigantic space that’s basically set up like a beautiful study lounge with a coffee shop in it. We’ll have the coffee shop with sandwiches, salads, and baked goods, but will also do take-home meals.

Cooper St Morning Owl
Finishing touches are being made at the Morning Owl on Cooper Street, which is set to open in May. Located in the high-end 1Eleven student residence, it will also be open to the public.

You said “we.” Who are you partnering with?

I’m partnering with Anthony Bailey, who is also the owner of the Bank Street location. He’s the former food and beverage manager at Brookstreet.

So Anthony was around for the beginning of your expansion in 2015…

Exactly. The Rochester Street location is a bit isolated, but as soon as Bank Street happened, Morning Owl was on the map. Then came Elgin, one of the busiest corners of the city. All of a sudden my Twitter and Instagram were up by, like, four times, and growth began to happen fast. The brand awareness has quadrupled from when I just had one sign up.

Morning Owl Cooper St
The spacious Cooper Street Morning Owl is set up like a study lounge with a coffee shop in it.
Morning Owl Cooper St interior
One wall of the Cooper Street Morning Owl is designed for visitors who want to stand and chat or sit down for a quick drink or bite.

How does your system work?

Morning Owl is so successful because the owner is on the premises, making sure they know the customers. There has to be a bond. My employees and I know basically every person that comes in. Of course, there’s also the great coffee, sandwiches, and baked goods! So I have a licensing agreement, which means Anthony is the face of the Morning Owl on Bank, but the Morning Owl brand stays constant — the green tile, the orange fridge, our unique Equator coffee blends, and the Art-is-In bread for sandwiches.

And who do you work with at the Elgin Street location?

Tommy [Chan] who was the manager at Rochester for five years. So he knows what Morning Owl is all about, too. And Nader [Salib, the entrepreneur who launched The Common creative hub where the Morning Owl is located].

And the scoop on the Kanata Morning Owl?

It’s going to be open by June or July. We have a patio planned and it’s fully licensed. This is a huge Morning Owl — 3,000 square feet with seats, lounge chairs, and couches. There’s the great coffee and sandwiches and baking, but there will also be take-home meals and a mini-grocery.

Sounds luxe. Where is it located?

It’s part of William’s Court, which is this unreal new condo development. It’s like a resort — with six towers based around a beautiful manicured garden. There’s a clubhouse and saltwater pool and gym. It’s basically geared to semi-retired and retired people. It’s right by Kanata Lakes, too, so we hope lots of people will stop in to pick up healthy meals on their way home.

Morning Owl Cooper St Opening Soon
The Kanata Morning Owl, set to open this summer at the William’s Court condo complex in Kanata, will be fully licensed and will also house a mini-grocery.

And, finally, tell me about your “not yet announced” location.

It’s still secret! But I can tell you that it’s in Centretown and it’s going to be awesome. But it’s not happening till at least August 2017, so stay tuned.

That is a crazy schedule and such a wide range of clientele.

That’s what makes it interesting. Each of the Morning Owls has a different vibe. Elgin is a street crowd. I started out on Elgin as a bartender — I worked and partied on Elgin and it has a certain vibe that Rochester doesn’t. Then there’s Bank Street with a really wide-ranging crowd. And now we’re about to open in a building full of students on Cooper and seniors in Kanata. It’s like I waited six years to pull the trigger and now everything is happening fast!