A grande of music at local Starbucks café

The Starbucks in North Leaside is drawing locals not only for its coffee these days, but for its musical performances, attracting both listeners and performers.

Since about a month ago, the coffee shop at 878 Eglinton Ave. East presents acoustic shows every Friday night.

“I’m trying to bring the community together over something fun — and what’s more fun than enjoying music?” says store manager Meghan Smith.

Smith, who has been manager for less than a year, said musical evenings are her personal project rather than a corporate plan.

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She started by reaching out to local musicians. “Originally I thought it would just be artists within the local community, like Brian here who just lives down the street.”

Brian Hotton, a lifelong professional musician, became her first performer, playing his guitar and singing his songs for the first two weeks.

But by the third Friday, singer-songwriter Alice Hail of Stouffville started joining the Friday lineup.

And other musicians from near and far are calling to set up gigs. Even a band performance is in the works.

The Starbucks at Eglinton and Laird Drive is a great place to play, says Hail.

“For me it’s absolutely magical,” she says. “I’m just grateful to be playing anywhere, and in such an intimate atmosphere I can make a connection with the audience members. Everyone’s there to support you, there’s no one there who wants to see you fail.”

Hail says she’s been writing songs and playing guitar for about 10 years but she has only recently begun to play live shows.

For a starting performer like herself, the venue is fantastic, the Stouffville resident says. “It’s a hike but I’m willing to make it.”

Leaside-resident Hotton, 62, says he has been playing since he was 16, but he echoes Hail’s praise for the location.

“It feels fantastic. The ceilings are so high and the acoustics are fantastic — so it sounds really good in there. Even if I’m no good, it’ll still sound good,” he laughs.

Brian Hotton at Starbucks
VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: Lifelong guitarist and songwriter Brian Hotton says the Starbucks’ acoustics are fantastic.

And it seems to be catching on with the customers. “There’s twice as many people here tonight than there was last week already,” Hotton says.

Smith notes there are not a lot of places doing live music in this area and, with all the construction people don’t want to go anywhere far, so people like to find local entertainment.

After the music nights are fully established, she is considering other activities for other nights of the weeks to engage the community — perhaps art sessions or board games.

In the meantime, any musicians interested in playing on Friday nights, can email Smith or pop into the shop to see her.