Wandering down the dirt roads of Dawson City, you may find yourself charmed by the quirky café nestled right beside a worn-and-torn building straight out of the gold rush. The Alchemy Café was constructed over a period of four years with the architectural brains of Florian Boulais, his wife Sofia Ashenhurst-Boulais, and the muscle power, support and heart of 100 or so volunteers.
Stepping into the Alchemy Café you can’t help but feel comforted by the ambiance: soft folk tunes on the speakers, murmurs of foreign and familiar chatter, the woosh and clatter of espresso being crafted, and scents of earthy and wholesome foods simmering behind the counter.
The wooden interior is packed with books, adorned with the owners’ personal art collection and finished with beams engraved with inspirational messages (look closely).
Since the cafe’s opening in 2014, the owners have hosted countless community gatherings, meditation sessions, movie nights and dance parties. The space has concocted a vibe of positivity, community, reflection, well-being and soul.
Boulais is undoubtedly one of the Yukon’s quintessential colourful five per cent – not only due to his signature suspenders and rounded spectacles, but because of his demeanour: one of openness, humour, and willingness to sit with you for a cup of coffee.
Modesty and mochas aside, Boulais is quick to suggest that the heart of the café is grounded in the nurturing hands of one of The Alchemy’s main ingredients – his partner, Sofia Ashenhurst-Boulais.
She believes that with proper nutrition, clean air, pure water, and regular exercise, we can start to heal ourselves. Once we are healthy and strong, we can look at how we can heal our families and eventually, our community.
That is what the couples has sought to do through the creation of the café and its integration into Dawson.
Over the past three years, the team of alchemists have been dedicated to nourishing their community with good food, while encouraging their employees and customers to be curious about exploring more holistic and sustainable ways of nourishing their bodies.
Not only do they practise what they preach, they also practise what they print onto the back of their T-shirts: “Let Food Be Thy Medicine and Let Thy Medicine Be Thy Food.” (Hippocrates 431 BC).
With this in mind, Ashenhurst-Boulais weaves her nutritional knowledge and around-the-world cooking skills together to create a mouth-watering menu unique to Dawson City.
But the Alchemy Café isn’t only serving up yummy nori rolls and sweet treats that you won’t believe are actually good for you – there is also a subtle underpinning of spirituality that lingers within the rustic wooden walls.
“Our brains automatically scan the world for three things: truth, beauty and goodness,” Boulais says.
Examples of this, he suggests, are learning to be inquisitive about where your food comes from (truth), learning to create beautiful meals that are pleasing to the eye (beauty), and seeking out a healthy lifestyle that feel good for you (goodness).
Ashenhurst-Boulais says the past few years have been transformational.
“We have grown exponentially, and that’s why this business has been a tremendous gift to us.”
The couple has, indeed, grown from what they called a “chaotic start,” to a calm and thriving business. But as all good things eventually come to an end, they may have reached the final chapter in their story with Alchemy Café.
After the café closes at the end of September, they hope to find a buyer for the business, so that they can move to Australia to be with family.
“It feels good. Whoever we pass the business on to might do the same thing or they might not – and that’s not really up to us,” Ashenhurst-Boulais says.
“But my wish is that we have implanted in this town a desire for that seeking of truth, beauty, and goodness in our bodies, eating good food while supporting the environment.
“What I would really love is that we leave that behind no matter what. If we’ve done that, then we’ve succeeded. We’ve done something good.”
To find out more about the café, how it came to be, and the philosophy behind it, go to AlchemyCafe.ca.