Still Waters Run Deep

Words by Adrienne Dyer. Photos by Jordan Wende.

“Still waters run deep.” That’s the sentiment behind the design aesthetic and customer experience at the Esquimalt Roasting Company (ERC), located in an area steeped in a history of shipbuilding and naval culture. Designed and built by husband and wife Jesse Matthewman and Emily Scott, and their team at FreshSpaces Design + Build, the micro-roastery is located in Equimalt’s new Town Square, heralding a burgeoning modern community.

“The owner is a longtime resident, who embraces Esquimalt’s new direction, yet loves its history,” says Matthewman. “He wanted to expose people to the area’s industrial vibe without straying from its hard-edged dockyard roots.”


The micro-roastery was a perfect project for the FreshSpaces team. Their “specific type of magic” is the ability to make the biggest statement by working with what already exists in a space. Tailor-made, efficient, smaller spaces that are also really interesting and come with a bit of a challenge—that’s their specialty.

“At ERC, the space is ninety-percent concrete and glass which meant there was no room for the mechanical, and the three-entrance system challenged the layout,” says Matthewman. They positioned the bar against the brick wall, hiding the mechanical inside the cabinets, and fashioned adjustable metal shelves that slide on wingnuts inside a series of tracks cut with mathematical precision into wood panels behind.

“The owner wanted the space to be hard and harsh, with no plushness; a place people come to be engaged in the experience and focus on the coffee, the food, and the space itself.” The experience isn’t about comfort, says Matthewman, it’s about discovery.


And there’s much to discover. Hidden details, including a strip of Morse code that reads, “Still waters run deep,” add intrigue, and imbue the cafe with that same ethos. The bar is clad with scaled-down versions of dockyard steel; corrugated below with white-painted diamond mesh above. Touches of bright orange add yet another element of discovery and interest. The intricate topographical map of Esquimalt, designed and cut by Graphix FX Signworks, was a collaborative effort, as all the pieces had to be puzzled together onsite.

In keeping with his “use what we have” mantra, Matthewman polished the original concrete floor and painted all the exposed ductwork white to incorporate the network of pipes into the design. The harshness of concrete and glass is balanced by white oak tables, stools, benches, and the thick slab countertop. The crowning glory is a rare live-edge table made from a dying Arbutus tree that, for safety, had to be felled on Matthewman’s father’s property. It’s a stunning centrepiece for a space dedicated to bringing elements of a preserved past forward into a bright future.