La­have build­ing a ‘nu­cleus’ of en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit

Sprawl­ing space houses bak­ery, book­store and skate shop amidst nooks and cran­nies

South Shore Breaker - - Front Page - JOSH HEALEY ed­i­[email protected]­

The year was 1984 and Jesse Wat­son’s par­ents had just pur­chased an old, ram­shackle build­ing along the banks of the La­have River off High­way 331.

The build­ing had once been home to the La­have Out­fit­ting Com­pany, serv­ing as a fish fac­tory and ship’s chan­dlery, but the roof and one end of the struc­ture had sim­ply fallen in.

Most of the win­dows were bro­ken. The whole south wall would swing with the wind.

Sim­ply put, they had bought a ruin with a bit of old-world charm.

But Gael Wat­son — Jesse’s mother — said she was drawn to the cav­ernous space from the be­gin­ning.

“This won­der­ful, huge, groan­ing struc­ture ap­pealed to me in a way,” she said. “I was in­trigued.”

Jesse re­mem­bered the build­ing as a place of spon­tane­ity and magic for him and his friends grow­ing up in ru­ral Nova Sco­tia.

“My friends and I were able to run pretty wild,” re­called Jesse, now sit­ting in the re­stored build­ing. “When I got into skate­board­ing when I was about 13, we were able to build ramps on any of these spa­ces.”

The build­ing, in ad­di­tion to hous­ing Gael’s newly opened La­have Bak­ery , was home to Jesse’s forts, bike ramps and makeshift skate parks through­out the 80s and 90s.

Thirty four years later, the build­ing still houses the bur­geon­ing bak­ery but has added a re­cently minted book­store and Jesse’s own skateshop—all housed in one sprawl­ing build­ing along the river.

La­have River Books is the most re­cent busi­ness to take up res­i­dence amongst the scuffed floor­boards and rough tim­bers.

The book­store is lo­cated on the bot­tom level, clos­est to the wa­ter with a view that co-owner

An­dra White said she en­joys ev­ery day.

“It feels like home to me,” said An­dra White while eye­ing a flock of seag­ulls through the win­dow. “And I love hav­ing lunch up­stairs at the bak­ery.”

An­dra and Gael have worked to­gether for 20 years on var­i­ous lit­er­ary projects.

How­ever, a few years ago,

Gael ap­proached her about part­ner­ing up on a book­store, lead­ing to the open­ing of La­have River Books in 2016.

The move, ex­plained An­dra, is one which has given new life to a space pre­vi­ously used for boat re­pair.

Books of po­etry and mounds of mys­tery nov­els have taken the place of lathes and wood­chips.

“Gael knows a lot about busi­ness. I know a lot about book work but we both love to read. It’s been a re­ally good part­ner­ship,” said An­dra.

A set of wind­ing stairs and the smell of fresh baked bread leads cus­tomers up from the book­store to the build­ing’s heart.

In ad­di­tion to own­ing the build­ing, Gael is also the owner of the La­have Bak­ery, lo­cated on the ground floor.

And ac­cord­ing to Jesse, the bak­ery has be­come a bea­con in the com­mu­nity af­ter 34 years.

“I’ve def­i­nitely seen a re­birth of en­ergy,” he said. “Other peo­ple are see­ing that these busi­nesses are pos­si­ble, with the bak­ery as a nu­cleus.”

Gael added that it has taken years of hard work to get the busi­ness and the build­ing to where it is to­day but that there is some­thing spe­cial about the space.

“It’s got his­tory. Peo­ple worked in it 100 years ago and it’s a gath­er­ing place,” she said.

But the build­ing cer­tainly has its quirks.

From the bak­ery, there is an­other flight of stairs which opens up onto a host­ing room with large win­dows over­look­ing the river.

Clos­est to the wa­ter, there is an old of­fice door em­bla­zoned with the words “La­have Out­fit­ters” and a half-dozen birds can be seen fly­ing about.

When asked about the bird room, Jesse couldn’t help but laugh.

‘That started by look­ing af­ter my grandma’s birds. Now, there’s a new gen­er­a­tion down there,” he said.

And it is in the space where he built forts with his friends and looked af­ter his grand­mother’s finches that Jesse de­cided to start his own busi­ness in 1996.

His com­pany, Homegrown Skate­boards, oc­cu­pies the top level of the build­ing.

“I feel more like the build­ing chose me than I chose to do a shop here. It was def­i­nitely an evo­lu­tion of hav­ing a space to do the things I was in­ter­ested in,” said Jesse.

Cur­rently, Homegrown Skate­boards makes its own boards, does screen-print­ing and has a ramp all within the build­ing.

Jesse ex­plained that the idea of start­ing a ru­ral skate­board com­pany started when he was younger and sav­ing up to go to Hal­i­fax to buy boards.

“It got me think­ing: ‘ Why aren’t we do­ing that here?’” he re­called.

Like his mother’s bak­ery and the book­store, one of the main at­trac­tions is Homegrown’s lo­ca­tion.

“I don’t have to worry about what the big­ger scene is do­ing be­cause I’ve got a lo­ca­tion that is so unique. I re­ally like shar­ing the space,” said Jesse.

He added the sup­port of the com­mu­nity has al­lowed him to make his busi­ness and life in ru­ral Nova Sco­tia.

And it is this same sup­port — for­ever in­ter­twined with the build­ing — that Gael rel­ishes.

“We all have a place here. And I think this old build­ing has had its arms open to ev­ery­one,” she said.

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