Kamloops gets its java groove on
Brent Arnason admits he’s addicted to coffee.
So, it’s no wonder he dreamed about opening a coffee shop in a vacant spot in the downtown building where he once worked.
In the fall of 2009, he took the leap and opened Casey’s Caffeine.
The Victoria Street coffee and sandwich shop is a bit like taking a trip back into rock and roll’s past, decorated with vinyl records and retro memorabilia.
The cafe even has an open mic night for aspiring musicians who would one day love to be on the wall of a similar cafe.
Arnason considers the decor “eclectic” — certainly different from a regular coffee shop.
But, when you’re in the business of coffee in the Tournament Capital, it may be the only way to survive.
“We wanted to distinguish ourselves, for sure,” Arnason told KTW.
“If you equate it to 30 years ago, muffler shops sold mufflers. Today, they’ll do your transmission, engine and they’ll finish your kitchen.”
Though Arnason isn’t likely to get into the auto business, the shop had to adapt to an increasingly crowded market.
In the 20 months since Casey’s Caffeine opened its doors, several other coffee shops have moved into the same area, hoping to take a sip out of the java market.
Despite the competition, Arnason said his coffee sales remain strong.
Arnason said he has been mostly hurt by the introduction of the harmonized sales tax, which sent his food sales plummeting.
“Coffee is one of the only commodities in the world that continues to increase,” he said.
With a fresh supply of young people discovering the beverage as they get older, Arnason is confident there are enough java suppliers to go around.
It’s not hard to see just how competitive the coffee business has become in Kamloops.
Besides a bevy of mom-and-pop shops around town, the big chains are also expanding.
The Canadian icon of all coffee shops, Tim Hortons, will open a drive-thru in the Esso gas station at Rogers Way, just a few metres away from a full-service Tim Hortons outlet.
Starbucks continues to be a dominating presence in Kamloops, with a number of outlets, including three within steps of each other in Sahali.
Fast-food giant McDonalds has also moved into the coffee game, opening up several of its McCafes in town.
Another new java joint on the block is Blenz Coffee, which opened downtown at the corner of Second Avenue and Victoria Street in January.
Branka Gajic opened the franchise with her son and sees her shop as more than just a place to get a cup of coffee.
“Coffee is just an excuse,” she said.
“It’s all about socializing with people and having a fun time.”
A second Blenz franchise also opened up in Aberdeen Mall, under different ownership.
In an effort to find its own niche in the market, Gajic noted all Blenz drinks are certified organic and fair trade, along with food.
In the first six months, the business owner said her coffee shop is getting rave reviews from customers.
The proliferation of coffee shops in Kamloops in recent years hasn’t gone unnoticed by Jesse Harding.
The co-owner of Caffe Motivo said he’s surprised at just how many new shops there are in town.
“I don’t know why we keep building more,” Harding said.
“We don’t need any more, but we still build them.”
The competition has also pushed the coffee shop to find its own niche.
Harding said he’s made several changes since acquiring the franchise (formerly Cowboy Coffee), including changing the food and hiring a pastry chef to create deserts.
“We’re trying to separate our product from everybody else’s product just so we have a little bit more of a niche,” he said, adding it’s the only way the coffee shops in town are going to survive.
Still, with the economy recovering from a recession, Harding said people are holding onto their dollars a little tighter, noting more competition can only hurt the bottom line.
“The more cafes that open up, the pie gets smaller every time,” he said.
COFFEE TALK CANADA
Coffee competes with a variety of other non-alcoholic beverages, including tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, milk and dairy beverages, fruit juices, bottled water, sports drinks, vegetable juices, soya beverages, hot chocolate and low-alcohol wine coolers and ciders.
Measured by volume (hectolitres), sales of coffee accounted for about 16 per cent of all non-alcoholic beverage sales in 2008, according to Beverage Marketing Corporation.
From 2000 to 2008, per capita consumption of coffee (adjusted for losses) increased slightly, to 86.88 litres from 85.71 litres.
Statistics Canada data show the Canadian market for tea and coffee totalled almost $1.5 billion in 2008. ACNielsen reports domestic market retail sales of coffee totalled $647 million in 2008, an increase of 23.2 per cent over 2007, when retail sales totalled $534.4 million.
— Statistics Canada