Owner Mike Hinbest and employee Shelbie Schumacher adopt a Vanna White pose as they show off Robinsons Café and Gelato’s main attraction – a Faema espresso and cappuccino machine, ‘stile di vita italiana’ that cost about as much as a new car.

And, why not? It’s the heart and soul of the latest offering from Robinsons, which includes a general store with food, hardware, clothing and gifts, and a marina up the road.

It opened Jan. 11. As of Jan. 14, they had pastries. They have their regular coffee from Muskoka Roastery as well as the espresso machine for roasting beans. There are cold drinks, including Italian sodas. They will have gelato soon and will be adding breakfast sandwiches.

In discussing the $40,000 espresso machine, Hinbest said, “to get the best coffee, the Italians do it best. That is an imported machine. We had an old Italian guy come up and get it all set up for us. It does make extremely good coffee. Once you have one, you’re like ‘this is better than home. I understand’.”

He said they thought the café and gelato shop was a great idea since Dorset is “the in-between” of larger centres such as Minden, Haliburton, Huntsville and Bracebridge. Also, customers asked for it. “Where’s the coffee? So, we thought let’s get some coffee for them because this is the lifeblood of everybody in their town.

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“There are some little coffee shops around and they do a great job as well. What we were looking to do for people is to bring them in. A coffee shop is not just about selling coffee. We had a customer come in who was 80 years old and this was his birthday present from his daughter. She brought him in to get a cup of coffee. Those are the stories of why we actually do this. It is a lot of community involvement, getting people out, a nice warm drink just soothes the soul on a cold day.”

The space used to be the hardware store’s old garage with a concrete floor and walls. They spent six months renovating throughout the pandemic. Hinbest said they went with a custom look that will last forever.

On a cold winter’s day, he is asked to envision what it will look like inside and outside the shop in May when seasonal residents and visitors return.

He laughed and said, “I’m a little scared.” He added it will be a learning curve to understand the traffic flow. However, they always hire a lot of students for the busy summer season. He anticipates they will have lineups, but they’ll also have a mobile app so people can order ahead and not stand in line.

The Hinbests’ ethos remains, “stick with tradition, bring in new pieces that people are looking for and get ready to ramp up for the busy season.”

Robinsons Café and Gelato is at 1064 Main St. Dorset. They are open seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. although they might adjust hours going forward.

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