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Bringing a cup o’ java to the retail level

Eco-Café Roastery has only been in St. Jacobs for six weeks, but they’re already finding ways to give back.

As part of a township-wide initiative in conjunction with Random Acts of Kindness Day, the coffee roaster will be supplying free coffee to the people of Woolwich.

Township staff will be at the Woolwich Memorial Centre, the township administrative building, and the Breslau Community Centre handing out coffee from Eco-Café on Nov. 6.

Eco-Café has been operating in Waterloo Region since 2003. They made the move to St. Jacobs in the old mill on Sept. 1.

Edward Denyer, who co-owns the business with Ramin Hayratiyan, says part of the reason for the move is because they’re looking to add a retail component to their business.

They started out as a café roaster at the Kitchener Market. They outgrew that location and then had a warehouse on Mill Street in Kitchener.

“We’re mostly what you’d consider a backend business, mostly in the wholesale and supply. But over the years one of the things that was interesting is to add more of retail component and a customer facing,” Denyer said.

The coffee bar portion of the business will be open before December, offering all types of coffee and espresso drinks, along with cold beverages, snacks, and grab and go food items. He plans to serve cold coffee drinks and ice cream in the summer too.

“All the trades are now engaged. Equipment’s starting to arrive and be placed. Hopefully we’re a few weeks away. My original target was to try to get ready for Sparkles, even if we can do some kind of soft opening for Sparkles weekend to set the expectation for people,” Denyer said.

St. Jacobs Sparkles kicks off the holiday season with store sales and Christmas lights throughout the downtown. It runs from Nov. 12-15.

Rae Bauman, an administrative assistant in Woolwich’s building department, says this is the second year they’ve collaborated with a local business for Random Acts of Kindness Day. Last year Martin’s Fruit Farm gave out free apples.

Edward Denyer’s excited to offer free coffee in Woolwich Township as part of Random Act of Kindness Day on Nov. 6. Eco-Café Roastery opened in St. Jacobs on Sept. 1 and will include a coffee bar before December.[Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
Edward Denyer’s excited to offer free coffee in Woolwich Township as part of Random Act of Kindness Day on Nov. 6. Eco-Café Roastery opened in St. Jacobs on Sept. 1 and will include a coffee bar before December. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
“We liked the idea of local businesses being involved in this. We contacted him and he was very much looking forward to being involved in it, just to bring the community into it, to help with the movement,” Bauman said.

Free coffee stations will be set up at 9 a.m. until they run out of coffee.

“It’s a great venture and it’s a good thing for the community. What’s better than a random act of kindness that no one expects?” Bauman said.

They handed out free apples on the Sunday before the event at the Sugar Kings game to kick things off last year.

Township council will be at this Sunday’s Sugar Kings game at the WMC as the Random Act of Kindness launch night before the actual event on Nov. 6. Random Acts of Kindness originated in New Zealand and has spread worldwide.

Bauman says it’s important to participate in the Random Acts of Kindness because “we want people to be able to pay it forward.”

As for Eco-Café, they’re planning to keep that kindness going all year long by offering fair trade and ethically sourced coffees for their customers.

“The main focus is to be able to allow people top quality coffees. But we don’t want to be too complicated or too complex for people. If people want to engage and want to learn and want to understand more we’ll have all the means to do so. But I don’t want the public to have that feeling like ‘oh my god, I don’t understand the lingo, hence I don’t want to go in there.’ It’s just coffee. As simple as you want it or as complicated as you want it,” Denyer said.

Their coffee beans come from a range of countries and municipalities within those countries, offering different flavours depending on the region.

They use specialty brokers to source the beans versus the brokers of big industrial food service companies. They have brokers through Guatemala, Rwanda, and Colombia, to name a few.

“Those are the things that we look for in sources, doing what’s ethical as well as environmentally as best as we can,” Denyer said.

The wholesale market has always been Eco-Café’s bread and butter, but the people who live and work in St. Jacobs are their ideal target right now. Their target markets now are the local people who work and live in St. Jacobs and tourists.

“Slow it right down to five minutes and then go on with your busy life. That’s what I really would like to get people from the community to be able to do. When you walk in this door, go into slow motion for five minutes and really smell, taste, feel the environment, the experience, the aroma, the taste,” Denyer said.

He said community reaction has been positive so far. People have been drawn into the business by the smell of roasting coffee beans and the warmth of the old mill building.

This isn’t his first time getting involved with Random Acts of Kindness and he was excited when he was asked to take part.

“I think it’s fun. I think it’s a way to participate. Last year we did it with Sustainable Waterloo. For me it’s letting this community know that now we’re here and that we want to be a part of their community,” Denyer said.

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