Canvas Coffee House: Elevating java to art in a cup

Alex Hoyes mans the counter at Coffee House. (Photo by Kelli Caplan)

A blank canvas is often turned into something artful and creative.

That’s the premise behind Canvas Coffee House in Port Warwick. Opened in February 2019 by Daniel Haskett and Alex Hoyes, the shop has created its own art on its “canvas.” The masterpiece Haskett and Hoyes have composed is drinkable.

“We are both visionaries and dreamers,” says Hoyes, 26. “We both love to think about what could be.”

When customers walk into Canvas, they find a shop that is mostly decorated in black and white, and very hip. Haskett and Hoyes wanted it to be modern, yet appealing to all age groups. There are ducks on the walls, symbolizing taking off and flying high. In the past, canvas was often made from duck cloth, which was yet another reason the name Canvas fit.

“We had to come up with a name and were trying to be creative and most simplistic,” Hoyes says. “It is minimalistic. I wouldn’t say it targets one type of person. It’s a universal aesthetic. You can come in and see a child sitting in a chair or a business meeting taking place.”

Before Canvas moved into this spot, the location housed Hip Innovative Studio Boutique, another creative gathering spot that also served coffee. Haskett and Hoyes, both from Yorktown, decided to take it to another level, focusing heavily on the quality of coffee.

“We thought, ‘how can we reenergize this space?’” Hoyes says.

They not only decorated differently; they decided to put everything into their coffee, so that when customers came in, they experienced coffee at a whole new level. Haskett, 28, and Hoyes are coffee aficionados, extremely knowledgeable about coffee beans and the best process by which to derive the ultimate cup of coffee. They are well schooled on coffee science, and use terms like “third-wave and fourth-wave coffee,” both movements in which coffee is much more than a means to pump caffeine into one’s body. Hoyes says that they are both artists and scientists behind the bar.

“Because of that, every drink is going to exceed expectations,” he says. “So much happens behind the scenes. We are the very last step of the coffee bean’s journey. In a nutshell, specific coffee is viewed a lot like wine. That’s an umbrella way of looking at coffee,” Hoyes jokes, saying that they are “coffee snobs.” They put great effort and time into their roasting process and are very picky about the final product.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, Hoyes and Haskett had to regroup and figure out a creative way to keep the business running. They opted to sell roasted beans to clients. Word got out, and the idea grew, and the duo, who both graduated from Christopher Newport University, found their product in great demand to people who were stuck at home. They now sell the beans online (canvascoffee.net) to local clients and others all over the country.

“That’s the kind of people we are. We are problem solvers. We like to take on challenges,” Hoyes says. “I feel we’re an inspiration. If a coffee bean is so simple and we transform it into liquid gold, I hope we can inspire someone.”

With the doors open again, the business is steady both at the coffee house and with the bean business. Hoyes says they are thrilled with the progress and the transformation. The clientele is growing all the time, and the quality of coffee is keeping up.

“We love our customers. We have a lot of regulars,” Hoyes says. “I love teaching and educating people, and seeing them get excited about something that’s cool. Coffee is a journey, a process. If they are here, they are one step ahead.”

TO THE POINT:
Canvas Coffee House
Address: 2170 William Styron Square South, Newport News, VA 23606
Owners: Daniel Haskett and Alex Hoyes
Phone: 757-778-9281
Website: Canvascoffee.net

About Kelli Caplan 56 Articles
Kelli Caplan is a wife, a mother of three and a friend to all who know her. She spends a lot of time in her SUV, driving to schools, pediatricians, WalMart and Harris Teeter. She loves to try new recipes and new authors’ books. Her favorite foods are green (lettuce, broccoli, pickles). A former crime reporter for the Daily Press, Kelli has been writing for the Oyster Pointer as long as she has been able to hold a pencil.

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