Thomas-Martin Café opens in Charlottetown

Owners plan to serve fresh environmentally friendly packaged food

Nigel Armstrong
Published on October 13, 2013

Jocelyne Martin. left, and Lori Thomas outside their new Thomas-Martin Café at the Homburg Financial Tower on Fitzroy Street in Charlottetown.

©Nigel Armstrong - The Guardian

Fresh is a very earnest pursuit at the new Thomas-Martin Café in Charlottetown, so its breakfast bacon is real-smoked fresh P.E.I. pork.

Fresh is, in fact, the model that co-owners Jocelyne Martin and Lori Thomas are using to compete in the world of food service.

“Where you improve your margins is if you make everything,” said Martin.

“If you are buying food from a box and reheating it and selling it, then yes, the margins are small but if you are making food from scratch and emphasizing value, then your margins are much better.

“We do everything from scratch,” said Martin. “We have a wood-fired oven, we have a smoker. We make our own bacon.”

The pork for that bacon is raised by Steerman’s Quality Meats, a beef, pork and chicken operation run by Scott Drake in Millview.

Martin and Thomas have three years of food service success under their belts as owners of Route 3 Eatery in Vernon River.

That is where the wood-fired oven is located and where the smoker is, but that Vernon River location is seasonal. Now Thomas and Martin are ready to use that equipment to bring locally-sourced quick meals into the new Charlottetown location. They have opened a small, 47-square-metre (502-square-foot) retail café on the ground floor of the Homburg Financial Tower on Fitzroy Street in Charlottetown.

All food is served to-go in environmentally sourced, fully recyclable containers. The pair hope the small footprint of the cafe will help.

“A lot of places are really big,” said Martin.”We didn’t want to have a place with 50 seats that needs 20 people on staff to run it.”

They searched for a year before finding the Homburg tower location.

The menu will have items not available anywhere else, like borscht, a Ukrainian soup that features beets.

“I’m Ukrainian,” said Thomas. “We notice there are no places in town that do an Eastern European-type of cuisine.

“I do the breads and Lori does the meats so together we have a great sandwiches,” said Martin.

The smoked meat sandwich on rye features their own six-day, slow-smoked meat. The coffee is certified organic, fair trade.

“We are open 8-4 for breakfast and lunch,” said Martin. “We are going to have a rotating menu so we give people different options,” she said.

“But fast, as well,” said Thomas. “People around here only have a half hour for lunch but they are looking for nutritious and they want value for their money.”