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NEW IN BUSINESS: A café with a different angle (Election Special 2018)

May 29th, 2018 · No Comments

Computer engineer’s love of Annex leads to gallery café

Slanted Door (422 Bloor St. W.), a new gallery café opened on Bloor Street West late last month. It’s owned by Patrick Jabbaz, who wants to promote work by emerging artists from Toronto. GEREMY BORDONARO/GLEANER NEWS

By Geremy Bordonaro

Daylight pours through the window of the café. Customers sit, sip coffee, and enjoy the splashes of remarkable colour that adorn the walls from paintings by new and emerging artists from across the city.

This is Slanted Door, the Annex’s newest café and art gallery, which is owned by Patrick Jabbaz, Silicon Valley engineer turned businessowner.

“I’ve always had a love for the arts,” said Jabbaz, adding he wanted to give back to the community he loves so much. “I was an engineer for the last 20 years, designing electronic products, so I’m not an artist myself. But a lot of artists are having a hard time making a living doing what they love. I wanted to help out, even a little bit.”

Jabbaz wanted his art gallery to stand out so he located it at 442 Bloor St. W., which is well known for the bee mural done by Nick Sweetman. The artist has also been commissioned to do several murals inside Slanted Door.

It’s part of Jabbaz’s aesthetic — preferring to highlight the work of new artists, particularly those from the neighbourhood.

“I wanted local artists,” he said. “I didn’t want famous artists. I wanted emerging artists, local, from Canada. I contacted a few artists and there was a lot of interest in showing their art in here.”

Thomas Lappano’s Still Series is currently on display in the café, originally home to The Futon Store. GEREMY BORDONARO/GLEANER NEWS

Despite Jabbaz having bought the building, there was still an issue of funding. To that he had a fairly simple but well-thought-out idea.

“Little did I know that art galleries need a lot of funding: they don’t make a lot of money. So I coupled it with a coffee shop. I wanted it to be trendy, inviting, and to have a good atmosphere.”

“The space, decor, and what we serve draws people in,” said Michele Lee, the gallery café’s manager. “We are supporting local artists and I think that’s something that people can appreciate as well.”

One such artist is Thomas Lappano, an up-and-coming artist and OCAD University graduate whose Still Series of portraits is on display.

“Patrick reached out to me by email. He had seen my website,” he said. “He asked me if I was interested in being a part of the show in the art gallery he was opening. It sounded really interesting and I was totally excited about it.”

A highlight of the gallery, Still Series captures a series of moments. Together, they form an evocative narrative from a beautiful, colourful, and modern perspective.

“With this series I wanted to explore the portrait as a narrative,” said Lappano. “I was really interested in taking snapshots of a moment, right in the middle of an action.”

Lappano is also excited to have work on display near to home.

“It’s nice to have the opportunity to show work in a public setting, in the neighbourhood I live in.”

Jabbaz himself is also no stranger to the neighbourhood.

“When I was younger I used to go to a lot of parties here. So I’m familiar with the neighbourhood,” he said, explaining that he went to Ryerson University. “I lived here for quite a while but I moved to California. I was going to be there for two years but I got married, had kids, worked so much, even moved to China for a while. I just wanted to come back here.”

While the lavish lifestyle of a jet-setting engineer may have been appealing, there was something that needed to change.

“I loved my job as an engineer but I wanted a challenge,” Jabbaz said. “I wanted to do something totally new, that I had never done before.”

And so far, there’s been a steady flow of customers at the café.

“It’s been good. It’s been nice, very steady. It is locally known for the moment,” Lee said.

Tags: Annex · Life