‘Friends’-themed cafe coming to downtown Oshawa

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Published August 23, 2023 at 10:31 am

The future Collective Cafe on Centre Street in Oshawa

A local real estate agent and entrepreneur is looking to turn a former ‘escape room’ into an escape from the hustle of urban life at a café in downtown Oshawa that aims to bring coffee, camaraderie and all things ‘Friends’ to the city centre.

Mary Kovacs is currently raising funds to open The Collective Coffee Shop, complete with a comfy orange couch and ‘Central Perk’ vibes from the beloved television show to Centre Street in the heart of downtown, near City Hall.

With coffee and lattes and the familiar comforts of the iconic Manhattan café – including a Monica-style blue door – Kovacs wants to pay homage to the contemporary aesthetics of the Friends series while blending in with the urban charm of Oshawa’s downtown.

The café will be part of the Collective Market and there will be desks and workstations available for rent. Kovacs, who hopes the spot will be the “perfect place” to work, chat and meet friends, said the rising cost of real estate and the lack of affordable commercial spaces for small businesses was the genesis for the idea, which will also have a Kids Craft Corner space upstairs.

“Last year I realized there really was a lack of commercial spaces for businesses. They are either too small and charge a fortune or too large and still charge a fortune,” she said. “With this gap in the commercial rental market and the small business economy I decided to try something that normally isn’t done.”

The fundraising (GoFundMe) has not gone well – “pretty non-existent,” was how she described it – so Kovacs has been self-financing the project, along with some donations of kids crafts items for the upstairs space.

“I am trying to get some grants but it’s a complicated process,” Kovacs explained. “It’s just me financing it, so I’ve been doing all the work myself.”

That work has involved including painting all 2,400 square feet, redoing the flooring, staining and putting up all the shelving and the sign for the space, as well as building the coffee bar and thrifting a ton of furniture.

“It was an escape room, so the whole place had wild and crazy colors,” she said with a laugh.

The Collective Coffee Shop will be a blend of Friends-themed decor and local artistry. The iconic orange couch will be a centerpiece, situated near a wall adorned with a mural depicting the show’s most memorable moments. Framed quotes from the series will line the walls, serving as conversation starters for both Friends enthusiasts and newcomers.

The coffee and treats at the cafe will also be a fusion of classic and contemporary, with a not very subtle nod to the hit television show. Customers will be able to enjoy a ‘Smelly Cat Latte” or indulge in a ‘Central Perk Cold Brew Float,’ ‘Rachel’s Raspberry Mocha’ or ‘Chandler’s Caramel Macchiato.’

Friends-themed trivia and karaoke nights are also in the plans.

The coffee shop business is highly competitive, and Kovacs acknowledges the risks involved in the venture but she is “happy to take on the challenge.” It will be her first café but she is very familiar with the real estate side of the business, with spaces she owns in both Whitby and elsewhere in downtown Oshawa converted into smaller units and subleased to businesses that “would otherwise not have a brick and mortar location.”

“I feel this strategy really helps the economy and small businesses.”

“The economy is getting worse and things are so expensive. I want to be able to provide a safe and fun space for everyone,” she added. “I’m also excited to have kids and teens come in and craft and create and have a sense of imagination and peace in their day while they do it.

The building at 83 Centre St. S. had been vacant for the last couple of years and Kovacs said she is hopeful she can have it ready sometime next month. “Fingers crossed.”

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