Food & Beverage Project

Case Study
The Alder Cafe + Grocery

Food & Beverage Project

Case Study
The Alder Cafe + Grocery

CASE STUDY: How The Alder Cafe + Grocery Opened a 100-Seat Cafe and Grocery Store with ACS

The Alder Grocery + Cafe - Canmore, Alberta - logo
The Alder Cafe + Grocery - Canmore, Alberta 4

A community-minded vision

When Bow Valley food and beverage entrepreneurs John and Belinda Spear had the idea to open The Alder Cafe + Grocery, they knew they wanted to create a space where locals and visitors alike could gather and feel at home.

A large capacity, high quality commercial build

John and Belinda engaged Ashton Construction Services (ACS) to complete a new building tenant installation for The Adler, which included a kitchen and restaurant, as well as a grocery fitout and a visually striking feature wall.

Expertise and connections bring major benefits

ACS’ lean practices, advanced technologies, and innovative systems ensured The Alder was completed on budget. The firm’s strong network of local project partners also helped John and Belinda save time—and gain peace of mind.


  • 10,000 square-foot, 100-seat cafe and full grocery store
  • $2 million+ project budget
  • 6-month construction phase with project completed on budget

“If you don’t have a project manager like ACS, you’re going to be pretty lost. ACS explained everything to us and coordinated very well with the other trades involved.”

John Spear, Co-Founder,
The Alder Cafe + Grocery

The Alder Cafe + Grocery - Canmore, Alberta - Glass Wall

A space to gather

The Alder Cafe + Grocery was founded by John and Belinda Spear, and opened its doors in Canmore, Alberta in December 2022. The couple’s vision for the brand was to create a space that blurs the lines between an old-fashioned corner grocery store, a farmers’ market, a butcher, and a cafe.

“We wanted to bring a small, neighbourhood grocery store and cafe to Canmore that could become a meeting place for people,” says John.

Now with 25 staff and a growing customer base, John and Belinda’s vision has come to life. And construction of the space itself played an integral role in the process.

The Alder Cafe + Grocery - Canmore, Alberta - Restaurant

Finding an experienced local partner

When they set out to build The Alder, John and Belinda wanted to keep as much of the work local as they could. This would enable them to cut down on crews driving into Canmore from Calgary and other locations, and help minimize their carbon footprint.

“We were looking for a high quality construction firm to head the project, but there wasn’t a lot of experience in town in terms of companies that had built restaurants and grocery stores,” John says. “Most only had experience with restaurants.”

John and Belinda also needed a commercial construction management partner that could handle a 10,000 square-foot build and engage with the local design team they’d hired to design The Alder.

A robust vetting process

To ensure they selected the right construction partner, John and Belinda created a list of three companies to vet. Then, they drove around town to view various projects each company had completed and to see the quality of the builds for themselves. They also had conversations with clients of each firm to learn about their experiences firsthand and find out how big the construction crews were.

“You don’t want just one person doing all the work,” John says. “You also want to make sure they have good connections with other trades and no bad feelings.”

All three of the companies the Spears were evaluating performed well in the vetting process, but Ashton Construction Services (ACS) came out ahead due to the firm’s experience with grocery construction, local design connections, and organized approach.

Ashton Construction Services (ACS) - Case Study - The Alder Cafe + Grocery - Canmore, Alberta 1

A collaborative, detail-oriented project management style

The new building tenant installation for The Adler is located in the Tamarack Building in Spring Creek Mountain Village. The project included a 10,000-square foot kitchen and restaurant with a grocery fitout, containing a coffee bar, full bakery, deli and butcher shop, and more. The Alder was designed in collaboration between Nest Design and Drafting Studio and MK Design group, and constructed by ACS.

“We had a few delays getting started, but last year there were delays everywhere,” John says. “ACS was quick to alert us to delays and changes, and anytime the design team needed to make an adjustment, ACS was fast to respond. They weren’t flustered by any design changes or supply chain problems.”

As construction manager, ACS significantly value-engineered the project to keep the budget on track. The firm worked with the designers and trades through a detailed process to cut costs and maintain project goals, and worked around Spring Creek and the ongoing construction of the base building.

“It was hugely important to us for ACS to work well with the other parties, and our landlord, to smooth out any issues,” John says.

ACS was responsible for engineering the complete space inside The Alder, including complex HVAC, kitchen, and bakery ventilation in the existing building, as well as fire alarm, lighting, and power distribution. The firm also custom-built coolers and constructed all of the new finishes with custom millwork, lighting, and architectural feature walls.

Ashton Construction Services (ACS) - Case Study - The Alder Cafe + Grocery - Canmore, Alberta 4

A warm, welcoming place

John and Belinda achieved the vision they set out to create for The Alder with the help of ACS and the design team, who turned a large open space into an inviting gathering place.

“They understood the ambiance we wanted to give the cafe and store, and they made it warm and welcoming from the minute you walk through the door,” John says.

He adds, “We have a phenomenal outdoor area with a pond, and we wanted to capture that through the windows. We like the fact that there’s a lot of natural light.”

John estimates that around 50 people per day visited The Alder when it first opened. Today, he and Belinda are seeing four times that many people walk through the door each day. Many are repeat customers, while others are new faces. In some cases, the former bring the latter in to check it out.

“We want people to say, ‘wow,’ and to tell someone else about their experience here,” John says. “That’s important—recommendations are the best form of advertising.”

Ashton Construction Services (ACS) - Case Study - The Alder Cafe + Grocery - Canmore, Alberta 3

Setting the stage for solid progress

John and Belinda would gladly work with ACS again on any future renovations they might need. And they have a few words of advice for other business owners planning to embark on a construction project.

“Make a short list of construction firms, see what your values are, and if their values match yours. See if you feel a personal connection with them,” John says. “The ACS crew was welcoming and polite. They went out of their way to help.”

Budget is always a strong point with any construction project, he adds, but it’s key to be honest with yourself about what you need for the project to be successful.

As for what’s next for The Alder, John and Belinda are focused on getting grounded.

“This is a big project we’ve put in place, and we’re looking to make sure we do everything right as we move forward,” he says. “We want to build a good foundation, make sure the community is happy, and that every stage of our progress is solid.”

Ashton Construction Services (ACS) - Case Study - The Alder Cafe + Grocery - Canmore, Alberta 2
Photos: Eva Urbanska
Case study by Scribe National

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