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In late October 2015, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia announced the upcoming opening of a new fully licensed café on the main floor of its Halifax location on Hollis Street. With two existing locations within the new Halifax Central Library along with their original location in Herring Cove, PAVIA Gallery ~ Espresso Bar & Café will offer a special experience through a beautiful setting and sophisticated ambiance reminiscent of European cafés, where people gather to discuss, reflect and appreciate the arts.

With the café scheduled to open in March 2016, we thought it was a perfect time to sit down with Nova Scotia-based co-owners Christopher Webb and Victoria Foulger to find out what drives them and what visitors can expect.

Q: PAVIA’s impending arrival at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia’s Halifax location has been described as “the perfect fit”. Can you tell us why, and what customers and our Gallery visitors can expect?

The concept was to bring together the best parts of our PAVIA locations in Herring Cove & the Halifax Central Library and offer them all here at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. This will be a place where you can settle in to have a cappuccino and fresh pastry that was made in the bakery that morning; you can also enjoy appetizers along with a glass of organic red Italian wine. The idea is to offer a perfect place for both a lingering lunch and just a quick coffee on the go.

Our Herring Cove location has expanded over the last year and spread out over two floors, and the roster of artists we represent continues to grow. The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia provides a space for us to showcase the artists we represent through PAVIA Gallery and to expose them to an even larger audience. Likewise, when visitors of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia come to PAVIA, they will continue to be surrounded by powerful contemporary fine art in our café space.

Q: In a relatively short period of time, PAVIA Gallery – Espresso Bar & Café has shown remarkable growth. You’ve just been nominated by the Halifax Chamber of Commerce as one of the city’s Top Five Businesses. To what to you attribute your success? Have you been surprised by it, or was this all part of the plan?

We always had a vision for what we wanted to be. Whether it’s the curatorial aspect of PAVIA Gallery or the way we’ve chosen our coffee – we are the only establishment in the area to import our espresso from a micro roastery in Florence – to baking everything from scratch, we wanted PAVIA to offer a special experience regardless of location. We make sure that if people are driving to our Herring Cove location, the quality of experience makes it worth the drive.

As we expanded into new spaces at the Halifax Central Library, our core belief didn’t change, and we didn’t change how we do things – just how much we do it. We constantly hear how kind and attentive our PAVIA team is, we take a lot of pride in that.

Now and again we stop, put our heads up and think, “Wow, how did all of this happen?”

But we are surprised by our success. We are a couple in every sense; we have a family, but PAVIA is also a big part of our lives. We dedicate ourselves to it every day. We are usually so busy working all the time, but now and again we stop, put our heads up and think, “Wow, how did all of this happen?”

Christopher: I remember going to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia with my mom when I was a kid and it was a big deal to come here and to be in this environment. Spending time in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia was certainly a big part of my development as an artist. It was one of the first tangible experiences that made me understand that people spend their lives painting and that, although difficult, is a vocation.

Now when I look around, it’s staggering to see all of this manifesting – I am still fortunate enough to be practicing art, PAVIA Gallery, the cafés, our tours to Italy. We do have these moments of wonderment around the fact that we are exactly where we want to be… But the rest of the time, we’re focused on day to day activities and events.

Q: How did the European/Italian influence come about? Did you spend time visiting or researching the café experience abroad?

We’ve traveled to a number of places, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and various European galleries, and the concept of stopping to enjoy a coffee in the midst of an inspiring space greatly influenced our offering.

Victoria: I remember the feeling of being in Europe with my son Alex years ago, sipping a macchiato and eating a ricciarelli in the Piazzo del Campo in Sienna – that experience directly translates into what people can experience now at any one of our locations.

Q: We love your enthusiasm and vision. What will you be focusing on next?

One of the reasons we do well is that we focus on the here and now, and take care of what needs to be dealt with at the present time. We try not to be too many steps ahead. That said, there is growth opportunity in our Gallery, and we’re building resources to participate in things like international art fairs. There is a great opportunity for the business community downtown to be introduced to really important artists that should be included in collections. Lots of exciting things ahead!

There has been so much positive buzz around the announcement and we can’t wait to welcome you here for hot beverages or a glass of wine, great food in a unique setting. See you soon! 

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