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Pilot Coffee Ships it to Prince Edward County

Hydraulic lifts and minimalist espresso taps turn a standard shipping container into a striking temporary café

By Eric Mutrie
Photography by Scott Norsworthy

In true summer-house fashion, Pilot Coffee Roasters’ seasonal pop-up in Ontario’s Prince Edward County distills the burgeoning espresso empire’s primary outlets into a smaller version that opens up to the great outdoors.

Credit Williamson Williamson for the skillful downsizing. Back in 2013, Pilot Coffee co-founders Jessie and Andy Wilkin enlisted the architecture studio – then Williamson Chong – to create their roastery’s Toronto headquarters. Since then, the firm has designed two more coffee shops for Pilot and has another in the works.

Although the pop-up’s smaller footprint necessitated a more linear counter than the sinuous ones in Pilot’s permanent cafés, one corner is curved to keep with tradition and to subtly lead customers’ eyes to the steel condiment shelf.

For the company’s cottage-country outpost, the architects drew design elements from previous Pilot Coffee locations. “We were following a natural train of thought,” co-principal Betsy Williamson says. The pop-up’s counter, for instance, is lined in the same white-oak pickets that grace the signature curvier bars in Pilot’s urban cafés. Behind it, minimalist Modbar espresso taps are operated via under-counter control modules tucked next to a fridge and an ice machine, with power and water supplied through hookups to a nearby ice cream shop.

The 14.6-square-metre unit was shipped directly from Giant Containers of Toronto to BL Woodworking & Design, which built and installed the bar on-site.

To house it all, a 2.4-by-6.1-metre corrugated metal container constituted the perfect pre-made shell. “Sometimes, you work to mask the toughness of a shipping container,” Williamson says. “In this case, we really wanted it for what it is: It keeps things secure, and it keeps them dry.”

Need more caffeine? Read about the Mjölk-designed Detour Coffee in Hamilton, ON and Cops cafe on a Toronto sidestreet. 


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