The Good Lands Cafe opened in October of 2019 at 679 Sargent Ave. The space was formerly filled by community favourite Strong Badger Coffeehouse, run by Brock Peters, which closed last April. The new cafe is owned and operated by Bassam Hozaima, a Palestinian-Canadian who lives in the neighbourhood.
The café features a number of sandwiches and wraps, all of which are Middle Eastern and vegan. “It’s all vegan and Middle Eastern, because I’m Middle Eastern, and vegan, because my wife and kids are vegan,” Hozaima says. He also carries some more western fare like chocolate chip cookies, but he spices them up with cardamom.
The café’s name and atmosphere is inspired by a dear family member. “My grandmother loved to garden. She had an awesome garden. I wanted something to remember my grandmother but also something positive,” Hozaima says. The fledgling café, decorated with art by Hozaima’s daughter, does indeed have a positive, family vibe.
When he was designing the logo, Hozaima says “I wanted to have a prairie scene, with a bit of rolling hills as well. There is a bird in there flying in across the sky, (which) is inspired by my paternal grandmother. She was illiterate. (One day she said) ‘Oh I can write my name,’ (and) my grandmother took the pencil and made a symbol on the paper and said ‘that’s my name.’” That symbol is the same as the bird in the Good Lands logo.
Good Lands is a community-centred space after hours, too. Hozaima says he’s happy to rent the venue to people in the community or to non-profits for a low to non-existent rate. He also opens the space after hours for a biweekly open mic. The event was one of the staples of the former Strong Badger Coffeehouse, which musician Bev Solomon missed.
“There were all different things that were happening here that supported the artistic community,” Solomon says, including typewriter events, open mics and book launches. “It really became a hub, and you could see connections happening.
“So when the Badger was closing, I was thinking ‘oh, no! There goes the open mic. The community that was gathering was quite a neat core of people over three years.’”
With the opening of Good Lands Cafe, Solomon saw an opportunity.
“I felt really drawn to continue something that was happening in this place over those three years. I regathered the community,” which continues to meet every second Friday. “Bassam was not hesitant. It was really great,” Solomon says.
They’ve had four open mics since the opening of Good Lands. “It has been really great to have musicians here (again),” Solomon says. But it’s not the number of people that makes each open mic special.
During one open mic, Solomon says “Bassam told a story. There were six of us, and then somehow we ended up discussing the environment, politics or our songs.” The structure of the night can change based on who attends. “We (are) very flexible and open,” Solomon says.
Good Lands Cafe will be closed until the beginning of April, but the open mics will still happen every second Friday.
The next open mic is Jan 31. Doors open at 5 p.m., and performances start at 6 p.m.
Published in Volume 74, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 30, 2020)