Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Putting the cow into Cowpuccino’s

One of the city's favourite coffee shops finds itself as the star attraction in a Toronto travel item for the Ontario based Sun newspaper chain.

Cowpuccino's  and it's bounty of bovine fare is featured in an expansive report on some of the things to do during a stay in Prince Rupert.

Coffee with the Cows
Diane Slawych
QMI Agency

PRINCE RUPERT, B.C. — Judson Rowse never imagined he’d learn so much about cows when he opened a cafe 14 years ago. But when your coffee house is called Cowpuccino’s, well, it’s not entirely surprising. Though the name is a play on the word capuccino, and the city’s Cow Bay, customers assume he has an abiding love of cows and regularly send him cow-themed paraphernalia.

He started with one knick-knack and now has a collection of hundreds of items — from cow-shaped magazine racks, cookie jars and sugar-packet holders, to stuffed animals, cushions and an array of whimsical ornaments. 

Rowse cheerfully displays them all on the walls, tables and window ledges of this cozy cafe, along with some of the 200 postcards he’s received in which a cow figures prominently. “I’m surprised where they come from — China, Panama, Thailand.

I think we’ve got most countries covered,” he muses.

Thanks to a lady in Britain, Rowse is now familiar with the long-horned and shaggy Highland Cows, and can easily identify a Belted Galloway. The customer who sent a postcard of the latter joked that the heritage breed from southwest Scotland resembles an “Edwardian matron in a tight fitting corset!”

Asked if he has a favourite item, Rowse points to a picture on the wall.

“The cow head in South Dakota made of rail ties — it’s 50-feet tall — that’s pretty cool,” he says. Nearby is a photo someone sent of their van, painted in a black and white pattern that resembles a Holstein cow.

 “I just got this in the mail from New Brunswick,” Rowse adds. “It’s people dressed as cows in a parade in the Tintamarre festival.”

 You’ve heard of a rocking horse? Here you’ll find a wooden rocking cow. It’s usually parked outside. And don’t expect to hear the ocean when you put that giant seashell to your ear. This one “mooos,” like a cow!

Cow connections Oddly there are no real cows to be found in Prince Rupert, though that wasn’t always the case. An historic plaque in town explains that in 1908, a Swiss man named John Nehring decided to open a dairy here but there was no dock to unload the herd of cows from the barge, so the animals had to swim to shore!

The dairy didn’t last, but the name Cow Bay stuck.

The whole town plays up the cow theme. Trash bins around the city are painted in black and white Holstein pattern. There’s also a Cow Bay Rd. — where, incidentally, you’ll find the excellent Cow Bay Cafe restaurant, and not to be forgotten — the Cow Bay Gift Galley — which sells, among other things, cow-patterned soap dispensers, oven mitts and plates.

But Rowse maintains: “We’re the most cow-oriented business in town.”

Prince Rupert’s star attractions:

Located on Kaien Island in the province’s northwest, Prince Rupert was once known as the “Halibut Capital of the World,” and has a surprising number of notable attractions. Among them:

 — Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, accessible by boat or plane north of Prince Rupert, is said to be the only one of its kind in North America. Tours operate from mid-May until the end of July,

 — Whale watching: Peak time to see the Orcas is May and June, followed by Humpbacks from August to September, and Gray Whales from late August to October.

 — The North Pacific Historic Fishing Village built in 1889 and the last of hundreds of B.C’s coastal canneries, is now a National Historic Site, complete with antique equipment, wooden boardwalks and a company store.

 — Museum of Northern British Columbia exhibits Northwest Coast history and culture dating back to the end of the last ice age.

 — Five archaeological sites at Laxspa’aws or Pike Island can be visited on guided tours

 — Visitors can travel the scenic Inside Passage to or from Prince Rupert on the new ferry MV Northern Expedition, a 150-metre vessel that can carry 600 passengers and 130 cars.

 — Seafest, the annual summer festival, takes place June 10-13 this year with a parade, quick and daring boat building, soap box derby and more.

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