Michelle Huggins travelled a long, exciting road before planting roots in Barrie with her Lazy Tulip Cafe.
She arrived here in 2011 with her three, big, mixed Lab dogs and now her cozy eatery is about to grow.
Huggins is expanding into the space next door on Maple Avenue.
She's excited about this milestone and is awaiting the permit before contractors start to work.
"We have 22 seats now and the expansion will add 30 more seats, plus the seats on the patio," she said.
"Weekends are so busy. We'll be able to accommodate larger groups but keep the intimacy of the original Tulip."
Huggins opened the Lazy Tulip Cafe with long-time friend Matthew Jones, owner of Barrie's Midway Diner, who she has since bought out.
At the time, she was working as a waitress at nearby restaurant Il Buco when she saw an ad on Kijiji for a cafe for lease.
"It was Deelish Waffles at the time," she recalled. "I came in, checked it out and I just loved the space. I'm kinda one for following my heart and I thought, I gotta do something here. I felt strong about opening a cafe and I've always wanted to open a cafe."
And that's when her "baby" was born.
The first two years were slow but Huggins refused to give up and continued to waitress at Il Buco to stay afloat.
People told her she was crazy to open a business in that area.
"I've seen areas of Toronto turn around," she said. "I see that this area is changing and I just believed in it."
Huggins had worked in various restaurants, mostly in Toronto and mostly high-end, fine dining but she also did a lot of travelling.
The Lazy Tulip is a reflection of her as a traveller and has a slide show running from her different trips.
"I wanted to create that vibe of worldly, spiritual feel," she said.
The tiny cafe is now a beloved eatery to many and is open for breakfast and lunch.
Huggins says breakfast is very popular and eggs benedict is served on weekends.
A favourite on the lunch menu is the chicken club served on house-made focaccia with roasted red pepper mayo.
There's also the chicken mushroom wrap with sun dried tomato pesto, chicken, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, goat cheese and arugula.
The menu features vegan and gluten-free options and the new menu will have only locally raised, farm-raised meats.
The Tulip staff make their own bread and recently another long-time friend of Huggins joined the staff.
Baker Sheila Lair is now preparing all the butter tarts, cookies, muffins and vegan cookie sandwiches in-house.
"Matthew from the Midway diner, Sheila and I all marched in a drum corps together in Kitchener," said Huggins. "Sheila became a pastry chef and just moved to Barrie two months ago because her husband is in the military and was transferred to Borden".
Huggins was born in Oshawa, grew up in Peterborough and has lived in Toronto, the Bahamas and Florida, not to mention her travels to India, Thailand and Japan, just to name a few.
She says she is settled now and is good with that.
"My dogs really grounded me. They're twelve now. One died last year. One has cancer. I'm not sure how much time I have left with her, so I'm not travelling. I'm not leaving her."
The "free spirit" sees a lot of opportunity in Barrie and is looking forward to the next phase of her Lazy Tulip Cafe.
But delicious food is always her main goal.
"I call it mindful food. Real food. Mindful eating," she said. "I just want people to walk out feeling that was a great experience."
The Lazy Tulip Cafe is located at 29 Maple Avenue.