Dan Weir is living a barista’s dream.
Blasting a self-curated playlist on a tape player in a crisp white space and pulling delicious espresso all day, he is living his definition of success. Sporting a bearded smile and simple grey sweater, he said, “There is nothing else I would want to do.”
Weir opened Weird Harbour Espresso Bar in October 2016, between Ideal Bikes and Urban Outfitters on Barrington Street. The interior space, planned out entirely by Weir and his partner, Danica, is worthy of a design magazine. The shop is small, clean and filled with the intense aroma of quality coffee.
“I had some concept ideas for the space, I designed the operational side of things,” he said “but Danica was definitely the aesthetic eye.”
The process of purchasing the location, planning out the design, renovating and opening the espresso bar only took two months.
Without any background in business, Weir felt he was delving into something larger than himself. The Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development (CEED) is a Nova Scotian organization that helps young entrepreneurs start their own businesses, and they gave Weir an introduction.
“It’s a lot of fun, starting your own business, but it’s also terrifying,” said Weir. “You take care of things that you’ve never had to before, like I never had to hire a contractor before in my life and all of a sudden I have to hire five or six contractors.”
In between steaming milk and designing a beautiful rosetta in a cappuccino, Weir expresses his gratitude for the help along the way, “I’m really lucky because the folks that helped with the place were amazing and none of them were condescending, they knew that I was new to it. Halifax has been very welcoming.” Weir said Halifax is a great community for small businesses because people are supportive. “You need a lot of helping hands even for a small space.”
Between CEED, support from others and a slew of library books, Weir has pulled off being a young entrepreneur. To others who aspire to start their own businesses, he advises, “research your industry, learn as much about yourself and your style of operating a business as you can, read books, talk to people, because once you get going, you don’t have time for those things.”
Weir likens starting your own business to having a baby. It requires constant care and love. You must always nurture it and put its needs before your own.
As we spoke, waves of friendly customers filled the shop. Each were treated to a personal conversation. In the moments the shop is quiet, Weir weighs the espresso in his tamper, dialing it in to ensure things are “up to snuff.”
He puts his heart into every drink he crafts.
“In regards to making drinks, I am a perfectionist. If I make a bad drink that I feel isn’t up to my standard, and I serve it for some reason, it will haunt me for the rest of the day. I want every single drink to have my undivided attention.”
Weir has worked as a barista since 2003, and specialized in espresso since 2007. His attention to quality stems from those many years of coffee experience.
Perched on one of the shelves Weir made himself are brown bags of beans for sale. Unlike most Halifax coffee shops, that serve locally roasted beans, Weir serves the Ontario-based Detour Coffee.
“I really enjoy [Detour’s] coffee and no one else in the Maritimes uses them,” said Weir. “It’s good for people that want really high quality stuff and also for people that just want a cup of coffee”.
The customers that open the glass door, with their rosy cheeks and laptops, order a variety of drinks, from mocha lattes to pour-overs. Detour is served to all.
Benjamin Hannah, a student from Montreal, sits on one of the four stools. “I came here because I saw it on Instagram and I was like, yes, finally someone is offering good coffee and good service.”
Ultimately, Weir takes pride in being able to offer his customers something he himself is passionate about. He feels drinking coffee is a way of being part of a global community.
“My favorite thing about coffee is that it could be considered the great equalizer. It’s a universal luxury for everybody,” said Weir. “No matter where you are in the world, someone is drinking some form of coffee and it brings people together.”
Weird Harbour is the product of an experienced barista turned dedicated entrepreneur. “It is very daunting to start your own business but over all, it is incredibly rewarding,” he said. “I love it, it’s pretty much the best work in the world.”