Carte Blanche Opens in Longtime Upholstery Store Location

Story and photos by Nik Fiorito

“It’s in the old Bernie’s Upholstery building” is probably the easiest way to direct someone to Thunder Bay’s newest cafe, charcuterie, and vino spot. Carte Blanche opened its doors at 389 Oliver Road in December, after months of renovations and planning by co-owners Robyn Despins and Bryan Gray. The goal was simple: to create a space where quality food and drink can be enjoyed in an intimate setting, where nothing is rushed or overlooked.

Carte Blanche co-owners Robyn Despins and Bryan Gray

Carte Blanche seeks to be a neighbourhood coffee shop by day and wine bar by night, with sweet and savoury charcuterie options, eventually for dine-in but currently available for take-out in individual to large-sized boxes. Both Despins and Gray have an entrepreneurial spirit, but Despins in particular has always dreamed of operating her own coffee shop. Her recent move to Thunder Bay from Saskatchewan combined with securing the vacant corner-lot building provided the ideal circumstances for taking the leap, despite current pandemic restrictions. The partners report strong interest and support among patrons as more and more people realize how nice it is to open a custom charcuterie box at home on a cold winter night.

While the charcuterie options may steal the spotlight, coffee by local roasters Rose N Crantz Roasting Co., and special-order wine (coming soon) will ensure that every bite goes down smoothly. Renovations to the larger lounge area are currently in progress in anticipation of dine-in restrictions eventually easing up.
Online orders can be made through the website at