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'A destination': Community the focus at Moon Cafe and Craft Beer

This homey little Innisfil business displays wares from local vendors, has a community garden and organizes different activities for each night of the week

Some say the jobs of the future dwell in the land of high tech, but here’s proof the future may be just the opposite.

If the success of Moon Cafe is any indicator, we may look to low-tech good-neighbourliness for the path forward.

It’s a business model that is not so much “unplugged” as “plugged-in” — to each other.

When Jessica and Adam Kurello moved to Alcona eight years ago, drawn, like many young families, to the relative affordability of homes in the area, they noticed something lacking.

Living in the city, they had enjoyed the easy access to craft beer venues, the friendly local meeting places on nearly every corner.

Having worked in the craft beer industry for more than 10 years, Adam initially considered opening a brewery, but in a town without any craft beer, and given the big upfront costs, this seemed too big a leap.

Instead, they decided to open up Moon Cafe and Craft Beer in a vacant, former tackle shop at 1041 Innisfil Beach Rd., introduce craft beer to the community and see how well it was received.

“We’ve been open a year now and it’s been going really well. We have quite a few regulars and we bring in one keg or one case of beer, then switch it up the next time we order so it’s always something new.”

They offer four constantly rotating draught taps and more than 50 Ontario-made craft beers.

But it’s not just about the brew, it’s the atmosphere. Moon Cafe focuses on community.

The Kurellos looked at what was needed in their new hometown and did their best to fill the gaps. An artisanal storefront, for example.

In addition to craft beer, fair trade coffee, Ontario wines, ciders and coolers, tea and baked goods (created by Adam’s mom, Sue Kurello, a professional baker), this homey little business also displays wares from local vendors.

Rather than rely on online sales, artisans can now showcase and sell their products, from crystals to candles, pet food and printed tumblers.

When the Kurellos noticed more people struggling to put food on the table, they created a community garden on the cafe’s large lot.

On “Pitch-In Day” earlier this year, friends, family and customers built 30 gardens which they filled with a wide variety of organic vegetables.

Jessica, a teacher, and their two young children tended to the plants, weeded and harvested (others were invited to help out), and the produce was placed in a basket on the counter for anyone who needed it.

Recognizing a need for neighourhood happenings, they organize different activities for each night of the week: trivia nights, meat raffles, “paint and pint”, "Innisfunny" open mike, karaoke, music, outdoor markets and food trucks - plus free WiFi and an open door to well-behaved pets.

It’s still, at times, a struggle, Adam says, as Alcona grows, transforming from a sleepy little cottage village to, increasingly, a town filled with city transplants and commuters.

It requires new infrastructure and progress, but changing old attitudes takes time, he adds.

“Alcona has so much going for it, the biggest being its geographic location, between a major highway and waterfront, both 10 minutes away.”

And it’s this that keeps the Kurello family on target, convinced there is a future for business that looks to people, connections and community for its growth.

They have partners at the ready to launch a brewery — if they can find a good location in the area — and continue to grow.

“We owe a huge thanks to the community. They’ve been really supportive for all our events and given good feedback,” he says.

“There’s a lot of opportunity in this town to bring a couple of restaurants here. We can really make it a destination.”