If you would have asked Dara Barton 12 months ago what she’d be doing in a year’s time, running her very own cafe would probably not have been her first answer to that question.

“Never in a million years did I expect to start my own business. It was not in my plans, for sure.”

And yet, last Friday, August 25, Barton officially opened The Daily Dose, Vankleek Hill’s new health food cafe, taking over the location of the former Golden Hill Juicery at 52 Main Street.

The new cafe will focus on smoothies, salads, and coffee, as well as juices and healthy dessert snacks. The Daily Dose will also be teaming up with another local small business, Baked on the Hill, to create specialized dessert snacks in a cup, in addition to the snack and protein bars they sell currently.

So far, Barton says she’s been stunned by the overwhelmingly positive reaction the business has received from the community.

“Everyone is so nice. So many people I don’t even know have come in to look around and share their support. It’s been amazing.”

A daring decision

When asked what made her decide to start her own business, Barton is a little perplexed herself.

“Honestly, I wish I could tell you,” Barton laughs.

However, explaining further, she says a desire to keep the location from closing and a belief in her own capabilities were enough to drive her to make the move.

“I first heard the juicery was closing and thought ‘it can’t close!’ After that, I talked to some friends and decided: I can do this. I can make juice.”

Barton, who finished her first year of health sciences at Queen’s University this year, was all set to transfer to study nutrition at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia for the upcoming semester before she decided to put school on hold to pursue the new venture.

While she has not studied business or catering herself, Barton says that the experience she gained working for another local small business, Tara Unsworth-MacWhirter’s Garden Path Homemade Soap, provided her with the tools necessary to run a business of her own.

“I worked for Tara at Garden Path for a long time. When I started there, it was very small. I kind of watched it grow. I think the idea that I could do this was seeded in me then. Even doing things like bargaining with suppliers and all that kind of stuff—I would never have had that experience if I hadn’t worked for her. I learned a lot for sure.”

Even with the experience of working at a small business behind her, Barton says managing her own business has been even more time-consuming than she expected. Still, she says she’s been thoroughly enjoying the whole experience, pitfalls and all.

“It’s kind of taken over my life. But it’s great! I couldn’t be happier.”

Helping hands from the fam’

Given everything that goes into running her own business, Barton has certainly appreciated getting some help from her family.

“My family has been huge in getting things started. I can’t thank them enough.”

Dara hired her older sister, Olivia, a graphic design student and small business owner herself, to develop the look for the new cafe. Olivia designed all of the graphics for the new business, even illustrating the signs and specials in the cafe by hand to give the eatery its own unique look.

“I cannot take credit for anything that’s in here. Anything you can look at is all Olivia—she’s amazing.”

But Olivia wasn’t the only member of the Barton clan to help the fledgling operation off the ground. When Dara had to travel to Hungary for a dancing competition with the McCullough Dancers just weeks before the cafe was set to open, the whole family joined in to make sure the opening happened as scheduled.

“The trip was planned before I even decided to start [the business]. I knew I wanted to open before the end of the summer, but before I left, nothing was ready. When I got back, the (family) team had put everything together. It was crazy.”

What’s in store for the future?

While Barton says she’s mostly been planning things on a year-to-year basis, she says she’d love to see the Daily Dose grow as much as possible, with hopes to one day develop beyond her current operation.

“I’d like to see it expand, for sure. More seating, more of an internet cafe kind of thing. Maybe hire someone to manage it while I return to school. We’ll see what happens.”

When it comes to food choices at the cafe, Barton says she has some new selections in the works, and is always looking for new healthy foods to add to the menu.

“We’re going to do salads of the month. Smoothies of the month. And we’re going to bring in soups and chilis once the colder weather hits. I’d also like to bring in a baker to make bread to go along with that. And I’m really hoping to expand the coffee selection. Maybe have some frappuccinos, flavoured lattes in here—that type of thing.”

The Daily Dose is open Monday to Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.. Those interested in learning more may visit the company’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thedailydosevkh/ or reach them by telephone at (613) 307-1480.