An Interview with Adam Tilley, the owner of The Brake Room in Belleville. thebrakeroom.com
Describe your business.
The Brake Room is a cafe and a bike shop under the same roof. We are a community hub who host food pop ups, markets, group bike rides, and meetups. We fit people to bikes that offer utility, style, and comfort, whether restoring a vintage bike, or starting frame up. Our cafe serves craft coffee with other offerings like snacks, healthy prepared lunches, and beer. Most of our cafes products are produced within 200km, and many within 50km.
How long have you been here?
I was born and raised in the Oak Hills, South of Stirling. It’s 20 minutes North of Belleville. I spent my first 19 years out there, and I’ve been living in Belleville for 7 years.
What brought you to the region?
My family has been here for about 100 years. I only moved away briefly, but coming back I saw the region for it’s natural assets. I jump on my bike, and explore the backroads to hunt for new trails, or inspire new routes.
What makes the Bay of Quinte region a good fit for your business?
Our proximity to Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal causes our region to be a perfect stopover for through traffic, and an attractive day trip destination. Our location makes a great break point for travellers. As cyclists we look for backroads, and dynamic terrain. Hastings County is dense with old farming and logging roads, and rail trails. Prince Edward County has miles of loose and packed gravel crossing through wineries and farms. Belleville is a hub for both so we play travel guide for most of the year.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs in the area?
There are business models that couldn’t have worked in this region 20 years ago. We have an incredible opportunity to raise our standard by accommodating the needs of the ‘new locals’. Many tourists are here to scout real estate. Take an extra minute to make everyone welcome to the area… it just might strengthen our economy!
What surprised you about starting a business in a smaller community?
One thing that gave me confidence was the size of the surrounding area. I figured if I could build a community with 1% of the area then I’d have a shot at success. I also assumed that there must be at least 5000 people who would appreciate the quality of our coffee. I was surprised that so many people would actually buy in to our brand and form their own communities within it. It’s cool to step back and see it grow in its own way.
Describe your perfect day off.
It would start as someone carried me from bed to a prepared breakfast made by Idle Wild PEC. I’d go for a bike ride that hits all my favourite roads, like Benway, and Pulver. After I’d head out to my folks place in the Oak Hills and tent it by the pond with Laura, and some close friends. If it’s truly perfect it would last for 28 hours so I could still get a full night’s sleep.
What’s your secret to surviving winter?
We try to help our community avoid the winter blues at all costs. We host pop up dinners and brunch every week, and have also started a spin club to get riders ready for the roads in the spring. The cafe stays alive and awake all winter which is perfect while the bike shop hibernates.
What’s your favourite part of living in the BoQ?
BoQ is as affordable as it gets yet it offers the amenities I expect in a city. The surrounding area is a playground for adventure, and within a short drive I can visit Peterborough, Kingston, Toronto, Ottawa & Montreal. It’s a win win in my books.