Hillary and I had an unusual first meeting. A few years ago, we were in the Centre Stage Theatre show Leading Ladies, a show about a couple of thespians turned con men to gain a fortune. It was back then I learned that Hillary was going to one day open her own business selling the best sandwiches and teas in the valley. One day when I was going to her house to taste test some of her creations I was overcome with a powerful sense of déjà vu. I realized that she had sold me a chair a year earlier; I did not recognize her because she had chopped off all her hair. We had a good laugh about it.
Hillary is originally a native of Alberta and she moved to Dartmouth when she was 9. Her parents are both from Newfoundland and they wanted to be closer to the coast. When she was 21 she met her now husband, Logan, and they moved to the Annapolis Valley where they have lived here ever since. As mentioned before, Hillary decided to open her panini press and tea house a number of years ago and I asked her why she wanted to open this type of business. I was initially surprised at how many factors Hillary took into consideration before opening.
From a young age, Hillary often remembers food as being a conduit through which people would show affection, which is something I can identify with both from a giving a receiving aspect. There is a particularly guilty pleasure in watching people eat your food, and a sense of euphoric validation when someone takes a bite of your creation and looks at the person across from them with the “Have you tried this yet, it’s stupid good.” face. Hillary also spoke about how the tea choices in the communities seem to have stagnated and that, especially when at a restaurant, there are only seem to be three choices, Earl Grey, Green, and Orange Pekoe. Being a tea fanatic, she wanted to open her community to more choices to which she has +20 varieties. For those of you wondering, at the time of writing this Hillary’s favourite tea is the Pink Lady Slipper, so give it a whorl the next time you’re in. Also driving her is her desire to experiment. Anyone that is familiar with Hillary’s menu knows there are some unorthodox food combinations that go exceedingly well together (I’m looking at you seasonal grilled peach and bacon panini). So, to help people overcome unconventionality, Hillary put her combinations between some buns to make it more familiar, and I must say that her plan is working.
Being a regular at Hill’s Grills, I often get to watch Hillary move around her shop and actively interact with her space and the people in it; she never stops. She always has her eye on everything she can, sometimes to her own detriment as her staff often times have to remind her to eat. She is constantly striving to make sure her patrons are happy and cared for. Hillary tells me she has always been like this which, while great for her professional career, can be exhausting mentally. Which is why she often turned (and hopefully in the future will continue to turn to) the stage.
The stage offers a break from her own mind. Now, she still has an internal thought process going a million miles per second but it’s working on her character, she creates backstories and actively finds meaning behind the small actions she does even when not the centre of a scene. It may sound exhausting to some, but for Hillary it is a break from her own world for a time; a chance to be able to step out of her own mind which can lead to new accounts of self-discovery. It is no surprise to people of the stage that we can often learn a lot about ourselves by portraying the life of another. Her favourite production was the most recent she was a part of, Grease (don’t worry Hill, I won’t hold it against you). From the direction, to her co-stars, and the music itself Hillary felt it was a good show to do before her hiatus from the stage. The musical was performed at the Quick As A Wink Theatre in Windsor and, having done the photos, it was amazing.
To wrap up the interview I asked Hillary a question I often do during these segments, “where do you see yourself in five years”? I received no answer because had you told her five years ago that she’d own and operate her own sandwich and tea shop, she wouldn’t have believed you. Hillary lives her life in “one year chunks” and that works for her. I find it particularly refreshing when comparing her life to mine because my life has always been structured around the long term, so I am now trying to incorporate a few “one year chunks” into my life as well all thanks to her.