This photo was taken in 1828. Recognize that fountain in front of the Crowne Inn? It now sits in Willistead Park.

Everything happens for a reason. For Linda Zagaglioni opening Taloola Cafe in Olde Walkerville was the culmination of things falling into place at just the right moment.

“The more I would go to cafes in different cities, the more I wanted to see it back home,” explains Linda.

As the years went on she traveled to different parts of Canada and the world and the more she visited other places, the idea of opening a cafe in Windsor always lingered in the back of her mind.

“The feeling just grew,” says Linda. “It was time for a change and during the last five to seven years of my job, it was always in the back of my mind. Then the opportunity just arose and offered itself.”

Finding the perfect location was important to Linda. And the former Crown Inn Hotel on Devonshire Road was the ideal location to house a fresh, new eatery in Olde Walkerville. The Crown Inn was no stranger to entertaining guests. Designed by the architectural firm of Mason and Rice, Detroit for the Walkerville Land & Building Co. the hotel was built for Hiram Walker and Sons and is considered to be one of Windsor’s most important heritage buildings. It was the first hotel in Walkerville and in 1980 it was designated as a heritage building under the Ontario Heritage Act.

At the time, Hiram Walker’s whiskey enterprise was booming and the town of Walkerville was growing. Before the structure was built, guests visiting any of Hiram Walker’s enterprises were shacking up in the firm’s office buildings. So when you run out of room to house the train load of guests that are stopping by to visit, what better way to accommodate them than to erect your own hotel!

Built in 1892, the four storey, red brick structure, which has both Queen Anne and Romanesque Revival design elements, housed 32 sleeping rooms (seventeen on the second floor and fifteen on the third) with employee accommodations on the fourth floor. Guests entered through the main lobby, had dinner in the dining room or just a glass of fine Walker whiskey at the bar. In the basement a barbershop, wine cellar and billiard room kept guests clean-shaven and entertained. The Crown Inn even boasted to having one of the first telephones in Walkerville. Rumour also had it that Al Capone may have dropped in a few times during prohibition heydays.

The late 19th century hotel was perfectly located across from the Lake Erie and Detroit River Railroad deport, also designed by Mason and Rice and completed just two years earlier. Unfortunately, the old train station went the way of many of Windsor’s architectural treasures and was demolished by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad in 1957.

In 1921, hotel operations ceased. From a print shop to a hair salon, various businesses moved in and out of the corner spot of the heritage building. But it wasn’t until the current owners, who wanted to keep the integrity of the building intact, purchased the building in 2004 and Linda’s opportunity finally came into reach.

“The new owners are working hard to getting the building in shape” explains Linda. “They held the space and refused offers until something they liked came up. They wanted to see a café too.”

When the idea finally began to take shape, obstacles, such as parking had to be dealt with. The City’s Committee of Adjustment originally denied the request due to the perception that there was a lack of parking in the area. Linda appealed the decision, took photos of the surrounding area, got a petition together and her persistence paid off. The Committee approved and the idea of Taloola Cafe was closer than ever to becoming reality.

Linda’s research consisted of putting together ideas of things she liked from cafes, restaurants and stores she had come across on her travels in Vancouver, Victoria, Quebec, Montreal and Europe. Once the design of the space was complete and with help from her friends, construction began.”I had immense help from my boyfriend and two close friends with all the construction,” says Linda. “Without their expertise…it just wouldn’t have happened. And a huge thank-you to my mother for being my loan factory!”

Exposed brick, high ceilings, plush couches tucked in corners and quirky objects on the walls that draw your eye around the room add to the cafe’s bohemic style and inviting air and give the space a warm, cosy feel.”The look and feel is a little bit of everything and a little bit of something different,” says Linda.

As a former business owner, owning her own hair salon, and producing local theatre shows, Linda applied her experiences in work and travel to creating a cafe that is eclectic and fresh, which extends into the items offered on Taloola’s menu. Alongside grilled sandwiches, raw juices and crisp salads, you’ll find organic teas, coffees and desserts.

“Taloola’s is different because it offers organic coffees, teas, desserts,” explains Linda. “I drink organic tea in my own life, like it and now offer it. It was also important to ensure that the tea presentation was unique so we use loose tea and serve it in a glass canister.”

A great alternative to the corporate frappucinos and cafe lattes, Taloola Cafe is a great place to meet up with friends, enjoy lunch on their outdoor patio or soak in a little local culture while sipping on creamy fruit smoothie.