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Breakfast beauty on Herald Street

Jam newest venture for coffee couple
Jim Walmsley at his new breakfast eatery, Jam Cafe, in Old Town on Herald Street.

Jim and Candy Walmsley, who carved a good following out of the coffee craze with their rustic Union Pacific cafe on Herald Street, are taking a run at another hot trend - the all-day breakfast.

And they didn't have to go far.

Jam Cafe, a funky new diner dedicated to the most important meal of the day, is just a jaywalk from their coffee company on Herald Street.

"We wanted to do something with food and we'd been looking for a while," says Jim Walmsley, a 41-year-old Victoria native with a long pedigree in the hospitality business, including the last six years with Union Pacific.

"So when this place came up, we thought, it's a great space and it's convenient."

If the first week is any indication, the Walmsleys are on the right track as diners funnel in and rave about the various bennies, huevos rancheros, red velvet pancakes, homemade sausage gravy, chocolate French toast and a cardiac called the Angry Bird - a hard-boiled egg wrapped in beef meatloaf and pork topped with bacon. And yes, you can get fries with that.

There's also a lunch menu with buttermilk fried chicken, mac and cheese, sandwiches and soups and Coca-Cola in the bottle.

And you'll find dishes named after the couple's three young boys - Harry, Jack and Charlie, ages 11 to seven. One reviewer on dining website Urban Spoon called the Charlie Bowl - crumbled house-made biscuit, hash browns, two eggs, ham, green onions, cheese and that sausage gravy - as "major yum" and described Jam as "fun, new and Portlandesque [with] excellent food, thoughtful flavours and presentation and great value ... Will definitely be making this my new breakfast place."

Jim says he and Candy encourage their cooks to "be flexible and creative."

"That makes good food," says Jim. And like their Union Pacific, the Walmsleys have created a unique space with vintage collectibles and recycled materials.

"I have a bad habit of going to auctions on Thursday nights and buying stuff I don't need," laughs Jim.

One of those items is hanging from the ceiling between the dining area and kitchen. It's a one-metre tall traffic light and it flashes green when orders are up.

They also salvaged thick fir beams from the former Thrifty Foods warehouse near Tyee Road (now home to Victoria's new BMW dealership) to fashion shelving and the bar.

Breakfast eateries are popular in Victoria. John's Place has been around for decades and, more recently, places such as Floyd's Diner and Shine Cafe have drawn hungry crowds.

Jam is located in The Herald Building, which was long known for the famous Herald Street Cafe. Since that entity folded 15 years ago, the ground floor has been divided into two spaces. The larger portion is now a furniture store and the other side taken over by Jam has seen a revolving door of misses, including Solomon's, a shortlived cereal bar, and, most recently, a sushi place.

The Walmsleys ploughed about $50,000 into a full-service kitchen and ventilation system. "We really believe in Old Town," says Jim.

"We're starting to see this part of Herald really pick up with new, interesting places." He noted that Yaletown Furniture is getting ready to move into the former Urban Barn location just down the street.

Jam is at 542 Herald St. It is open Monday to Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays and holidays from 9 to 4. Call 778-440-4489.