CHAPEL CAFE: Head chef Karl Marshall, cafe manager Marcus Simmerlein, wrought iron specialist Adam Styles, builder Gus Harrison, lead light specialist Pauline English and cafe owner Emily Balaam are set to open Chapel Cafe at the end of April. Photo: Kate Russell.

From chapel to cafe


A little chapel with a big heart is set to start a new chapter of its life as a cafe.

The old Seafarers Mission building on Haven Rd will open as ‘Chapel Cafe’ at the end of April, after a two-year restoration process.

Nelson photographer Jose Cano purchased the derelict church and adjacent boatsheds in 2015 with a vision to bring the historic building back to its former glory.

Now the work is complete, Jose has handed the reins to some passionate locals who want to open a cafe with a community focus.

The cafe will be owned by Emily Balaam, who comes from a family of restaurant owners.

Emily says they will be offering great coffee and freshly-made locally-sourced food on site with a seasonal flavour.

But their main focus will be giving back to the community.

“All active or retired military, police, fire brigade, civil defence, coast guard and community volunteers, DHB employees and hospice will receive a 10 per cent discount to say ‘thank you’ for their service,” Emily says.

There will also be a donation box and they will donate ‘a dollar to a dollar’ for hospice.

The expertise of local trades people and artists have also played a part in the chapel’s lovingly restored interior and exterior that has been influenced by Nelson’s waterfront history.

Adam Styles has reproduced the chapel gates, Pauline English was commissioned to do the leadlight windows and artist Peter Marsden has done the outside artwork.

Emily says it’s a special feeling to be part of the chapel’s rebirth.

“Photos of the chapel go back as far as the early 1800s – it was a haven to those seeking respite from challenging voyages and for parishioners who fell on hard times,” she says.

“It boasts many outstanding features, such as stained-glass windows and the old bell tower that echoed through the port to invite the congregation to enjoy their time of worship and gratitude, and for the younger members of the congregation Sunday school.”

Chapel Cafe will be open seven days a week from 8am – 4.30pm and for private functions. Later in the year there are plans to open in the evenings with entertainment.

“There will be something for everyone. It will be the place to be for that quick catch-up for coffee and cake for friends and family, light meals or for bike riders or runners who want food-to-go. Devonshire Teas will be offered soon, as well as a liquor licence,” Emily adds.

But most of all, they want guests to be able to soak up the atmosphere of yesteryear.

“Just imagine if these walls could talk of time past around this busy port district.

“The chapel, in the true spirit, wants to give her community something back in return.”