Café Bloc opened its doors on Feb. 11, bringing together the warmth and sociability of a café with the fun and creative exercise of a climbing hall. Located at 1209-1211 Boul. Saint-Laurent, this unique space was the brainchild of co-founders Sébastien Aubé and Jean-François Gravel, whose new business has been met with a favourable reception from the local community.
“We feel very grateful [that] we have [received] so many nice comments from our friends, family, and climbers from other gyms,” Aubé said. “Everyone has said […] that the location is nice, the gym is pretty, […that] they love the coffee, [that] they love the food, [and that] the staff are very nice.”
The founders made sure to focus on not only the rock climbing aspect of their business, but also on creating a positive atmosphere and experience for customers.
“I like our vibe,” Aubé said. “We put a lot [into] creating a space where people wouldn’t just climb and leave.”
Having only been open for two weeks, Aubé believes that their goal for the space is being realized.
“So far, it’s really succeeded because I see some people here that stay longer than my staff,” Aubé said. “They arrive at eight or nine in the morning […] they climb, [they] get a coffee and work, they go back to a bit of climbing, they eat, they chill, they go for a sauna. It’s just really nice.”
For Aubé, starting a space for rock climbing allows him to invest more into his personal interest.
“We were very excited with […] the lifestyle of owning a [climbing] gym,” Aubé said. “Our biggest passion [is] climbing, so it’s just so exciting to come in the gym, have a coffee, [see] some friends, talk about climbing, show them around. […] It’s just really fun.”
As long-time rock climbing enthusiasts, the two founders used their experience in climbing to influence the design of their new business.
“I’ve been climbing myself for around 10 years, and [Gravel] for around 15 [years]. It’s our biggest passion,” Aubé said. “We wanted to have some […] good quality climbing, because we wanted to have the place of our dreams.”
Café Bloc is not only a climbing gym for experienced climbers, it’s also welcoming to newcomers to the activity.
“There’s a lot of beginners and new climbers, [the space] is very [beginner] friendly here,” Aubé said. “[And] even if you’re very [experienced], there’s some nice stuff for you here [too].”
Only a short walk from the Saint-Laurent metro station, the downtown location of the climbing hall is an important part of making this gym accessible during the day.
“We’re […] close by, so people who study in the universities nearby or work downtown [. . .] can [travel] one metro station or walk, and they can get to our gym, so it’s very accessible,” Aubé said.
The climbing gym itself took around six months to build, but more construction lies ahead for Café Bloc. The owners plan to develop the terrace space on the roof of the building in order to be used during the warmer months.
“As soon as the snow melts, we want to start right away with the construction of the terrasse to have it [ready] as soon as it’s sunny outside,” Aubé said. “We are going to have a 30 or 40 foot wall outside. It’s going to be sick.”
This space provides students, new or experienced, with the opportunity to try a unique activity and become a part of a budding community of rock climbers within the city.
“I think that if they would like to experience a new community that’s very enthusiastic and motivating and [if] they like to practice a new exercise, you should definitely come and give it a go,” Aubé said.