Café culture

If you like to wake up and smell the really delicious, artisan coffee there are going to be two new places to do so. With the opening of Café Postal on Provencher Boulevard this weekend and the imminent opening of Thom Bargen on Sherbrook Avenue, they will join the city’s burgeoning coffee scene.

Those in search of a perfectly-brewed cuppa are presently relegated to Nils Vik and his team of talented espresso-slingers at Parlour Coffee on Main, but that is changing.

“The coffee culture is growing and it’s increasing awareness to the ethics and quality of coffee, and there will be demand for more shops to open up with these standards. The more quality shops there are, the better it is for everyone, including the farmer,” says Graham Bargen – the Bargen of Thom Bargen.

When Parlour first opened its doors over a year ago on Main Street, the response was overwhelming.

“It’s very flattering to see people respond so well to something that you’ve poured a lot of time and thought into,” Vik says of his café’s success. “I think the community has responded in this way because there is a dire need for quality, passion, and specialization in the service and retail landscape of Winnipeg.”

All three proprietors site similar reasons for embarking into the bean and caffeine business – the luxury of an incredible coffee shop on every corner in cities they travelled to left them craving the same kind of experiences regularly in Winnipeg.

“Winnipeg’s coffee culture is increasingly getting better. Not to say it was terrible before, but the culture has evolved in many ways and we were falling behind. I’m so glad to see some evolution in the city and not in just coffee culture, but in general,” says Adrienne Huard, co-owner of Café Postal.

Another common thread that runs through all three businesses is the tangible passion of their owners – the cafés are not just a place to sit and give yourself fuel to get through another workday; they are labours of love and the culmination of years of hard work. Huard has worked in the coffee industry for ten years and travelled across North America, becoming inspired by the coffee culture in other cities. She is even considering a trip to Guatemala to see the source of the beans she grinds in her cafe.

TJ Hiebert of Thom Bargen, who toured Los Angeles solely to research its cafés, can relate.

“Coffee has run my life for the last three years. As a high functioning coffee addict, I feel like I need to open a shop to have better access to coffee and help me maintain relationships.”

In all seriousness, Hiebert says he cares about coffee and great hospitality and is excited to turn the café into a place to meet and a hub that fosters creativity and where people can be inspired.

The neighbourhoods and their residents have been gratefully welcoming these shops to the many corners of the city where they are opening for business; Parlour downtown, Café Postal in St. Boniface, and Thom Bargen in West Broadway.

“I think Provencher really needed a coffee shop and the support from the community has been overwhelmingly positive. Many people are saying ‘This is exactly what St. Boniface needs,’” says Huard.

West Broadway resident Izzy Goluch says the same for Thom Bargen.

“In West Broadway people love their bikes and their coffee. I think having a non-chain coffee shop will be a welcome addition to a rapidly-changing street.”

Bargen and Vik agree on the fact that one of the misconceptions about Winnipeg is that well-designed spaces can’t or won’t do well, which has been completely disproved by Parlour’s success and the success of many other high-end, specialty businesses in Winnipeg.

Our reputation as bargain-hunters is potentially the most untrue belief.

“I would say that the biggest misconception about doing business in Winnipeg is the assumption that Winnipeggers are cheap. To categorize an entire city as cheap is as stupid as saying all Calgarians are rich – we are just like any other city, we have people who fit into every category concerning income and spending habits,” claims Vik.

So far, the evidence is in his favour and the newest shops to open stand to prove the theory.