Micah Quinn likes a challenge — whether it’s hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada (4265 kilometres) alone, or re-imagining a local Whitehorse coffee shop as a dynamic new hub for the community, he’s up for it.
Late last year Quinn was finishing a contract at Yukon College. He had spent the last 10 years as a teacher and was taking a moment to figure out his next step. He learned that Rah Rah Gallery was for sale, which gave him an idea. “Before I started teaching I ran my own painting business in Smithers,” he explains. “I’ve always really enjoyed working for myself and I love taking on new projects and seeing them through to fruition. So once the idea of creating a new coffee shop and bar for the community came to me, I couldn’t let it go.”
By March, Quinn’s vision was well underway as he opened the doors to his café, The Watershed, on Sixth Avenue. “I work really well under pressure — it brings out strong focus in me,” he says, “although it has been a huge learning curve in a really condensed period of time.” He laughs, adding, “My coffee art is still pretty abstract, but I can use it as a conversation piece — asking customers what they see in it.”
The Watershed was inspired by Quinn’s trek on the Pacific Crest Trail. “Hiking through the States I was really struck by the level of customer service I encountered everywhere,” he explains. “It really felt like everywhere I went the mentality was ‘What would you like and how would you like it and how can I best create that for you?’” “It made me realise that the level of customer service in many establishments in Whitehorse is lower and I wanted to create a space that exceeded people’s expectations.”
Quinn aims to exceed those expectations both in the things he serves and the vibe he creates. By day, he dishes up coffees, teas, homemade soups, and baking. At night, it’s pizza and savoury pies, and craft beers, wines, and spirits. “In my twenties, my priorities were travelling and creating new experiences,” he says. “Now that I’m lucky enough to have had that opportunity, my priorities have shifted to becoming a really positive force in the community — I want people to leave The Watershed in a happier place then when they entered.”
The setting is conducive to creating a happy atmosphere. There’s a cozy couch, along with the typical tables and chairs. A shelf is crammed with classic board games; there’s a coat rack, free wireless Internet, room to park out front, and the weekend Globe and Mail. He has plans for a patio. “We already have a few regulars that come in to work and study,” says Quinn. “It makes me happy that I can provide them with a quieter, healthy, positive space.”
He also wanted to create a space for a quiet late-night drink and snack. “I wanted to offer people an alternative to a noisy bar,” he explains.
Starting at 4:00 p.m. the evening menu kicks in. Doors will stay open until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 11 p.m. on other nights.
And for the sake of his patrons, Quinn will be burning the candle at both ends, opening all day on Sundays. “There are not a lot of options for good coffee on Sundays,” he says. “So I wanted to help fill that niche.”
When it came to naming his new community space, Quinn says he had a “watershed moment” during the recent Wild and Scenic Film Festival. “A number of the films in the festival dealt with watersheds and it hit me that ‘The Watershed’ was the perfect name. Watersheds bring people together.”
The name is intended to represent the ambience of the café. Walls are adorned with the work of Yukon photographers who capture water, including Peter Mather. “It’s interesting that especially with Peter’s work from the Peel on the walls, some people assume that the campaign to protect the Peel inspired the name. It didn’t, I actually try to stay out of politics — I believe in people rather than parties, but watersheds are topical in the territory right now and they do get people talking. I want to create a safe space for the community to engage in dialogue and conversations.” He hopes the name inspires that.
The Watershed is on 6159 Sixth Avenue in downtown Whitehorse. It’s open Tuesday to Thursday 7:30 a.m. – 11 p.m., Fridays 7:30 a.m. – 3 a.m., Saturdays 9 a.m. – 3 a.m., and Sundays 9 a.m. – 11 p.m.
It’s also available for bookings. Go to: http://www.yukonwatershed.com/