Esther Chang arrives at Aida’s each morning at 5:40am to prepare bread, baked goods, and the café’s signature macaroons. This has been her routine for more than a month and is one of the ways in which Aida’s new owners are maintaining the legacy of its outgoing management.
Recognizing the establishment’s importance to local students, Chang’s daughter said that she hopes Aida’s will “become the place where students can study…for a long time while enjoying food and drink.”
Soon, the family of four will be relocating to Sackville from their home in Nova Scotia, marking another change in scenery after their emigration from South Korea just a few years ago. Ownership of the café was officially transferred in August, however the new management has been learning the ins and outs of the establishment since June.
Their goal, they say, is to maintain their predecessors’ business practices, rather than change them. Chang said they “want to be [part of] people’s daily routine,” and in doing so will continue in the pursuit of high quality, fresh food. An artist and calligrapher, Chang revealed one upcoming change would be the addition of local art to the café’s walls in support of young artists.
Chang noted feeling energized by the community, which she described as “active” and “young.”
It appears this energy is reciprocated by Sackville residents. According to Kyle O’Brien, a barista and cook at Aida’s, the café has been inundated with patrons. Even with seven years of previous restaurant experience, O’Brien observed that the number of patrons is higher than he is accustomed to, especially with the onset of Mount Allison’s fall semester.
“Aida’s welcomes everybody,” said O’Brien, who also referred to Aida’s as his “go-to spot” even prior to his employment. He attributed the café’s success to its “coziness” and “variety.” He estimates that daily traffic through Aida’s averages above 200 customers, with volume even increasing to above 300 on Sundays.
The new owners signalled their intentions of further supporting and exploring the community, and say that their patronage of local businesses has been reciprocated in kind. O’Brien said they frequently interact with nearby businesses like Fener’s Place and Ducky’s, but not only because of their proximity. It’s “a support thing,” remarked O’Brien, who noted that this practice is common for Sackville’s businesses.
O’Brien has come to know many of the café’s regulars as well, and spoke of the positive interactions he has had with the community. “Everybody knows everybody,” he explained. “I know that I’m appreciated.”
The new owners also spoke highly of their interactions with customers, describing meeting students as “exciting.” Preparing food for local students, Chang added, was done as though it were for her own children.