After a six-year run, an independent Penticton cafe closed its doors for good on Saturday (Sept. 19).
Chris Millin, owner of Saint-Germain Cafe and Gallery, says he’s cherished every moment in Penticton but it’s simply time for a change.
Six years ago, Millin bought the cafe and left his old life in Vancouver behind to move to Penticton. He had never been to the city before.
In his six years in Penticton, Millin’s Main Street cafe gained a loyal base of regular customers. The relationships Millin formed with his customers will be what he misses most.
When he opened Saint-Germain, Millin had the goal of creating a “niche” spot that would become a hub for the local arts community, and that’s exactly what the cafe became.
Over the years, Millin has had a wide array of local art on display and the cafe has also played host to many small concerts.
Millin never went out of his way to bring in new customers, rather preferring to let people find him and stick around if it felt right.
“You find me when you find me and you stay after you find me,” said Millin. “I always tried to show people who I really was and I believed if they connected with me they’d come back.”
Millin takes pride in giving a home to “outsider and lowbrow” art, something he said is often overlooked in Penticton. The cafe has previously hosted shows by punk and metal bands, which stirred the pot with some but Millin refused to change despite criticism.
“Anything that didn’t have a home somewhere else I would try to have here,” said Millin. “I just wanted to do things that other people wouldn’t dare to do.”
Millin hopes that others in the community step up and the fill the void Saint-Germain leaves.
“One of my last call-outs to the businesses here is to remember that there is this side of our community that likes things that are louder, that are more challenging, that are more aggressive… they like a dirtier side of things,” he said. “If you did everything by the book it would just be boring.”
Although Millin had originally planned to make Penticton his permanent home, he said it was ultimately time for change.
He didn’t start the year planning to close up shop and leave Penticton, but when he was forced to close the cafe for eight weeks when COVID-19 first hit, he had a moment to re-evaluate his priorities.
After taking some time to get back into writing and contemplate the future, Millin came to the realization that it was time for a new chapter in his life. Years of waking up at the crack of dawn six days a week had begun to take its toll.
“I came to realize I was really actually quite tired and I needed to go back to my creative life,” he said.
Soon, he will be packing up and leaving his life in the valley behind, in search of new beginnings in Victoria, where he grew up.
“I feel like my chapter in Penticton has come to a rightful conclusion,” said Millin.
Other than the relationships he’s formed at the cafe Millin says he’ll also miss the arts community in Penticton, the people he’s connected with at the community radio station, 92.9 CFUZ-FM while hosting his weekly radio program Neon City and, of course, the natural beauty of Penticton.
Millin may be leaving Penticton but he’ll still be heard in the community. He will continue to broadcast his radio show on CFUZ in Penticton from Victoria. On the show, Millin dives deep into the history of synth and electronic music.
To learn more about Neon City, click here.