Armed with his laptop and a folding umbrella, Toronto actor Fabrizio Filippo arrives at the Rooster Coffee House at 8:30 a.m. one Monday.

He orders a double long espresso and plunks himself down at a metal table on the patio.

The Broadview Avenue streetcar clangs its bell and there’s a low hum from the traffic on the nearby Don Valley Parkway, but Filippo doesn’t notice.


The coffee house is Filippo’s “office,” the place he comes to every week day to work on scripts and screenplays, away from the endearing distractions of his toddler, Asher, at home.

“I’m like Norm in ‘Cheers,’” Filippo says with a laugh.

Toronto’s burgeoning coffee shops are filled with people who jump-start their creative juices with caffeine and spend hours tapping on their computers. Just what are they creating in these surrogate offices springing up all over the city?

We peeked over their shoulders at Rooster, a former variety store transformed last December into a cosy refuge for many writers and home workers who live in the Riverdale area.

Filippo, the star and creator of Showcase’s Billable Hours, is busy writing a script for a new television show he’s pitching. Today he’s working on some dialogue.

“Yeah, well, since I left politics, I’ve helped shut down a dangerous food processing facility, forced a major big box retailer to compensate small businesses it destroyed, I’m about to stop a major toy company from burning children alive and I bought those very nice shoes over by the door.”

He is just one member of a small army who arrive daily with laptops, ledgers, notebooks and binders, looking for java-fuelled inspiration in a setting that has crystal chandeliers overhead and board games on the vast harvest table.

Owner Shawn Andrews used to be a film wardrobe stylist and, in a delightful coincidence, styled Filippo years ago as Johnny Lombardi storming Juno Beach in a Canadian Heritage moment on television.

Andrews has personally “styled” her boho-chic coffee house as an extension of her home, the building next door with brilliant red flowers lining the porch. Well-thumbed books from biographies to geographies are jumbled on the counter, music is eclectic and muted, and her odd photographs dot the walls. (Donny Osmond!)

The litres of coffee and thousands of words produced here range from the creative outpourings of novelist Wayson Choy to a course outline for an upcoming seminar by aromatherapist Elana Millman.

Twirling a rainbow-coloured hula hoop and smelling like a flower shop of exotic blooms, Millman makes a grand entrance before settling down to write about the program.

“This workshop is for the novice to the expert to learn different ways to administer organic, medicinal-grade essential oils in a hands-on, interactive, fun environment.

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