One of coffee’s many attributes is that it can be taken to go.
One of the coffee shop’s many positive traits? It can be portable, too.
Just ask Gregor Sayliss, the proprietor of Wandering Spirits, a mobile coffee shop and bar service that can get up and go, and come to a stop in some prime parking spots — including its current space at Bushel and Peck on Lake Street.
In the few months Wandering Spirits has been stationed in front of the midtown gourmet food store, the refurbished trailer-turned-java joint has become the destination for passersby to stop for some liquid energy, then carry on in their travels in a neighbourhood that’s become an attraction for lovers of good food — and coffee.
“If people can walk outside, and go around the neighbourhood and grab a coffee on their way back, it’s more of an experience than just going for a walk,” Sayliss said. “It’s cool because I’ve seen a lot of regulars come back if they’re going for a walk or into Bushel & Peck for groceries.”
Still, Sayliss wasn’t really expecting a roster of regulars when he started Wandering Spirits.
His original plan was to run Wandering Spirits as a mobile bar, doing weddings and corporate events. Sayliss had worked in hospitality, including serving in a fine dining restaurant, pub and as a barista. The natural extrovert liked being in front of people, talking and connecting with them as he made their requested libations.
It also helped the mobile bar concept had serious traction in Europe. Sayliss was further spurred along by his twin brother’s nuptials, set to take place last year until the pandemic postponed the wedding date.
“I thought the wedding industry is going to be nuts with everything pushed back and everyone is going to want to be outdoors,” Sayliss said.
The stars further aligned when he found someone in Orangeville converting old campers into mobile bars. Late last fall, with his refurbished trailer in tow, Sayliss, gave up his office job and, with the help of his partner, Katie MacCabe, started marketing Wandering Spirits for weddings, corporate functions and other events serving coffee or cocktails.
It wasn’t long before he had corporate bookings for the coffee bar. Wedding bookings came, too, but they were still a year away.
Then the call came from Cait Bermuhler, co-owner of Bushel & Peck, and a former coworker of Sayliss’s at Wellington Court. She offered a place to park for the time being and, with it, a way for Wandering Spirits to make a name for itself and a living for Sayliss.
When Lockdown 2.0 happened, cocktails were put on ice and coffee was given prime billing. Sayliss and his espresso, pour-overs and tea lattes became the reason for an outing to midtown Tuesdays through Saturdays.
“It just caught on so much,” Sayliss said. “What it also showed me is there’s room for a good coffee company in Niagara.”
Sayliss took the opportunity to showcase the wares of local coffee roasters in every cup, including St. Catharines’ own 416 Coffee Co., Manic Pixie Dream, and Welland’s Black Sheep Coffee Roasters. Those in search of some quality caffeine can also expect to see Wandering Spirits’ own roast, too.
He’ll also use Wandering Spirits as a vehicle to showcase local craft beer, wine and spirits when he switches gears to weddings.
“That’s huge to me. I think it’s so important to support local and the pandemic showcased how important it was,” Sayliss said. “I love supporting local businesses in my personal life so I wanted to do that in a business setting.”
But he also really loves the concept of the coffee shop — what it symbolizes and what it creates beyond a cuppa joe — including when it’s outdoors and in trailer form.
“I love what coffee shops do for a community,” Sayliss said. “It’s going there to have this relaxing, positive experience where we can go and meet up with people. There is something about that local coffee shop… that can be a really big part of a community. I really love that for me when I go for coffee. I love what it entails.”