Early last month a group of Cafenara regulars approached owner Sonny Yoo and told him they wanted to renovate their beloved coffee shop for him.
The owner of the Lazelle Ave. business of more than 10 years was naturally surprised to see such an intervention staged by his own clients.
“It was sort of embarrassing,” Yoo says with a laugh. “‘It’s really that bad, is it?’ Was my first thought.”
His longtime group of clients had noticed something Yoo was aware of but didn’t have time to act on with his busy family life—that the coffee shop landscape in Terrace was heating up with new options available to coffee drinkers.
The new arrival, Xanders Coffee, had burst onto the scene in December last year and the Elephant’s Ear had been reborn this February after major renovations and service overhaul.
“You could say that my friends saw the other coffee shops doing this,” Yoo said. They figured it was “time to wake him up.”
Just a few blocks away from Cafenara, over on the 400 Block of Lakelse, Xanders and Elephant’s Ear are practically across the street from each other.
Alexander Vogel learned the art of craft roasting beans before starting up Xanders and says the lease the space in the Coast Inn of the North building was highly opportune.
“Everything fell into place,” he said. “The lease came up and I just had to go for it. I stuck to my guns and went for it.”
The bean roasting allows Vogel to create unique flavours himself and is one of his shop’s distinguishing features, he said, and those beans are available for customers to purchase.
Cafenara also roasts their own beans, and Yoo says the shop’s restaurant-style food options help them stand apart.
The Elephant’s Ear went through a complete interior redesign in January and now has a deli component to its service.
“Every five to eight years we do that in the business to look fresh and new,” says owner Lance Dettwiler of the upgrade.
“I was going to do the renos later but with the competition arising I moved the timeline ahead – plus January is a slow month so it was a good time to do the renovations,” he said.
On top of the refinished look Dettwiler now offers a deli products selection and build-your-own sandwich options. He kicked off his re-opening with an open mic night featuring local musicians.
None of the owners did their transformations single-handedly. They all had help from the community.
For Yoo, this has meant volunteers, many members of a local church, helping out with time and even cash donations to paint the walls, clean and change fixings.
“They felt genuinely from their heart that they wanted to help this guy,” said Yoo of the efforts that have been going on over the past month.
It was Erin Griffin from Urban Colour clothing boutique who advised Elephant’s Ear Lance Dettwiler on interior design to give his shop sharp, clear design features, and Rubin Bond from a church in Thornhill helped him redo the floors.
For Vogel, starting Xanders was a largely self-motivated challenge, however, he said his friend James Cordeiro has offered business advice and Gemma’s Boutique has been supportive as well by mentioning Xanders in some of its own promotional material.
“Gemmas’s has been great in mentioning me in his radio ads. Cordeiro has been really helpful in showing me the ins and outs,” said Vogel.
“I think competition is great for the consumer because it forces the competition to try to offer their customers the best goods possible,” Vogel continued in reference not only to the other two local shops but also Tim Horton’s down the street and the Starbucks located inside the Terrace Safeway.
According to Cafenara owner Sonny Yoo, it’s part of the “healthy competition” that is bringing out the best in all of the coffee shops in Terrace.
Other coffee shops in town include Shefield Express in the Skeena Mall, Cafe Zesta at the four-way stop and various small vendors inside other stores.
Not only do the various owners look to each other for inspiration but also study closely what is happening in other areas.
Vogel said he went to the U.S. to study the art of roasting beans and Dettwiler said that he tries to get down to Vancouver on a regular basis to soak in what the latest trends are in that large, rainy coffee-lovers city.
He said currently, outlets there feature light colours and simple, pared-back stylings, but that he wanted to keep a bit of the West Coast vibe flowing with the fireplace in his Terrace shop.