A local coffee shop scene focused primarily in Kamloops’ downtown recently had another competitor enter the arena — this time uptown.
Entrepreneurs Kristine Brynjolfson and Paul Barry hope to make their mark with Reservoir Coffee, which opened in November.
Although Barry and Brynjolfson are both financially invested in the business, it is mainly Brynjolfson who had a passion to start her own coffee shop.
“I think there is an opportunity to have more of a coffee culture in Kamloops and the type of coffee shop that I really like — that we’ve seen in other towns [like Portland or Seattle] — didn’t exist here.”
The pair, who bought the space in 2011 when the building was still just a concept, had the luxury of building out the space exactly how they wanted it.
The décor plays a large role in the ultimate vision for the coffee shop.
A unique selection of artwork and building materials play into their “thinker’s theme.”
They hope the artwork in the space will break the “social barrier” often created by the frequent use of laptops and smartphones.
“[Technology] takes away some things, so I think there’s an opportunity to look back and interact with each other more,” Barry said.
Barry’s 13-year-old niece is producing a large painting of Albert Einstein on a bicycle to represent creative thought and vision.
There is a 4.5 to five foot slice of a tree burl hanging over a community table to encourage discussion about what customers see in the slab of wood.
There is also be space for a chess table.
By doing the majority of the buildout, Barry learned a lot and took an increased interest in the coffee shop business.
He also designed a piece of art, custom made for Reservoir by Ryan Wilcox, a friend and employee at Barry’s bike shop — Spoke ‘N Motion — which Barry has co-owned for 28 years.
“It turned out significantly better than I thought it would,” Barry said.
“It’s interesting, that piece, because I would explain to people what my concept was and I don’t think anyone really understood.”
A multi-panelled, welded steel structure including the coffee shop’s logo sits a few inches in front of a red wall creating an interesting multi-dimensional effect.
“You clearly don’t need to go through the expense of adding something like that to your coffee shop to have a coffee shop, but we want some uniqueness,” Brynjolfson said.
The second half of their vision is providing an excellent cup of coffee.
“Really, what I’m going after is just to have an amazing cup of coffee, an amazing espresso, an amazing latte. Each drink I just want to be a higher quality, as opposed to being just another coffee shop in Kamloops,” Brynjolfson said.
The shop’s drinks will be made with a Black Eagle espresso machine, which came at a hefty price of $24,000.
Barry only started drinking coffee this year and has learned a lot.
“People are very, very passionate about the perfect cup of coffee which is the illusive Holy Grail of coffee,” Barry said.
“There seems to be this endless pursuit to find that and I think if there’s a way to think about this concept, that’s kind of what it is.
“So, it’s not soup and sandwiches, it’s more about the Holy Grail of coffee, so that’s searching for the best cup of coffee you can get.”
The shop will be using 49th Parallel beans, which are roasted in Vancouver, B.C.
Using local products is a theme Brynjolfson and Barry maintain with their building materials.
The shop’s countertops are done by Mitch Upton, who used nearly 100-year-old reclaimed wooden slabs from the now-closed Vancouver Woodward’s department store.
The front counter is covered with hemlock slats from Vancouver Island, stained with coffee.
Brynjolfson always wanted to have her own business and the two conducted research from the parking lots of Thompson Rivers University before buying the space on McGill Road.
“Four years ago . . . we sat in the parking lot over there and counted the number of people walking by per hour and whether they were carrying a coffee cup. It was basic research, but that kind of thing is important,” she said.
The number? 200 to 300 per hour.
Several names were thrown around before the duo decided on “Reservoir.” Passionate cyclists, the two frequent Kenna Cartwright Park, where one of the many trails is called “Reservoir.”
“The name stuck because we read meaning into it. For example, the coffee machine has a reservoir in it and our location will be a coffee reservoir, so to speak, for people to come to,” Brynjolfson said.
“It will also be a reservoir of the mind,” speaking to the thinkers theme.
While Brynjolfson applauded what Starbucks has created, she doesn’t want her shop to be like the Seattle-born coffee franchise.
“We want to be much more original than that. My vision is that somebody comes here and says, ‘that was an amazing cup of coffee and that’s a super cool place.’”
Although Christina Grono’s The Art We Are has shifted its focus from art to food, the work on — and in — the walls contributes to the uniqueness of the space, which is both inviting and comfortable.
Grono, the owner and creator, calls it a “gallery-café.”
The concept behind The Art We Are is a permanent farmer’s market, the type of place Grono felt was lacking in Kamloops.
“A place that there is no adjudication and a very accepting place for all artists where they feel like they can display their work,” Grono said.
It was originally a block away from the current location, at 246 Victoria St. and was mainly just an art gallery, but evolved on its own into the locale now focused on food.
Gradually, Grono offered tea to patrons, then coffee and muffins. The menu grew and the café moved to a larger location.
Food and coffee is now 97 per cent of what they do, but the art is still important because it creates the familiar decor in The Art We Are.
“The art is the atmosphere,” Grono said.
She enjoys meeting the artists behind the displays.
“If they’re young and they’re passionate and this is the first time they’re putting their art up, they’re our favourite,” she said. “They don’t care if anything sells. They just want to have their art up and they take a lot of pride in it. Those are the people I find I’m drawn to.”
There is also visitor-created work in the space, both in the small notes tucked into the brick wall and the booklets of “Coffee Confessions” on display in the back booths. Filled with personal messages, both make for interesting and emotionally-stirring reads.
A customer from B.C. Living Arts saw the notes in the wall and came up with the idea for the confessions.
In the last two months, Grono has also gathered 10 pages of the “Coffee Confessions.”
There are drop boxes and paper located throughout that allow customers to write their thoughts anonymously for others to see.
In 18 months, Mitchell Forgie’s business has grown from a coffee shop to a restaurant, with a full kitchen and craft beer on tap.
It’s a dream come true for Forgie, owner of Red Beard Roasters in North Kamloops.
As far as coffee goes, the cafe is unique, being the only one locally roasting its own beans.
Below, read Forgie’s thoughts on the concept behind the cafe, coffee culture and the importance of atmosphere.
Red Beard Roasters:
“Our concept really is that we’re community centred. You make the decision that you’re going to hang out at Red Beard. And then when you get here, you decide what you’re going to have.
“We are doing what is called third wave coffee. Basically you have your first wave coffee — which was ‘coffee was introduced to the land’ — and that was sort of like Folgers and anything you buy pre-ground in a tin in large amounts. Basically what you’re looking for there is a caffeinated beverage.
“Second wave coffee is places like Starbucks and Blenz that sort of differentiate themselves based on roast level. So they have a medium roast, they have a dark roast, that sort of thing.
“Third wave coffee is that we deal directly with the farmers and the processing plants that process the coffee. Some of the coffee farmers that we buy from in Costa Rica and Panama have actually been here and been to Red Beard . . . and we have gone to visit them, and so we have a direct relationship with the crop.
“It’s an agriculture crop and how we roast our coffee has a lot to do with the quality of bean itself. If it’s from a high elevation, it’s more dense so it takes a longer time to roast at a lower temperature and things like that. We pay a lot of attention to that sort of thing and the preparation as well.”
“Coffee culture’s sort of a funny thing. I’ve never come across anything in my life where so many people have so many opinions and idioms and are so resolutely confirmed in them and unwilling to listen to anything else.”
“When you go out to eat, a huge part of what you’re doing is basically paying rent to sit in the chair. What you’re drinking is irrelevant. I look at tea in a coffee shop as that. Ninety-nine per cent of people who order tea don’t want anything, they are just buying something because they have to sit in that chair. So yeah, atmosphere is huge.
“It shows that you can have great coffee, great beer, great food. But, if the atmosphere sucks, people are unwilling to pay a high price for it. That atmosphere can be grungy on purpose and that can make it very hip and cool. But, people want something about a place, there needs to be something about it.”