Wheelie Good Coffee and it’s current incarnation at Books and Beans is not my first coffee business by a long way. Coffee has taken me around the world!
My coffee obsession came mostly from my academic studies in the UK. I worked in coffee shops (the chain, Caffe Nero and an independent place) whilst finishing my Masters in anthropology and always enjoyed it. Then in 2007, I was lucky enough to be accepted onto a PhD. program at the University of Sheffield – to study the coffee industry!
My doctoral thesis ended up looking at ideas of quality and waste in the specialty coffee industry. Even better, the fieldwork took me to remote coffee farms in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and coffee conferences in Guatemala. I graduated with my PhD in late 2011.
But what do you do with a PhD in coffee? I hear ye cry. Open coffee shops of course!
But coffee shops are expensive. So I started out a little smaller. In 2009 I launched my ‘Coffee Ape’ (pronounced ‘app -ay’) – a little Italian van, decked out with an espresso machine that I used to take around events in Darlington in NE England.
As I finished up at university and our eldest daughter was born, I decided to go all-in with a bricks and mortar cafe. At Christmas 2010, we’d opened Doctor Coffee’s Cafe, also in Darlington. It was all vintage-style with tea in proper tea pots, excellent coffee and plenty of home baked cakes!
We’d longed to move to Canada for many years though, and due to a very odd (and fortunate) turn of events the opportunity for us to emigrate arrived. In 2012 I sold Doctor Coffee’s Cafe and headed out to Regina, Saskatchewan!
I worked at a few other coffee places (13th Avenue Coffee House, Aegean Coast Coffee and a brief stint at Roca Jacks), but the urge to build my own again was always there. In 2014, I hit on the idea of serving coffee at Regina’s Farmers’ Market. I needed a mobile coffee cart that I could use outdoors, and so with a lot of engineering ingenuity by my husband, we set up the first incarnation of Wheelie Good Coffee, pulled on the back of my bicycle.
Wheelie Good Coffee did exceptionally well on the Farmers’ Market, and soon I was encouraged to try a full cafe again. In early 2015, we opened Dr. Coffee’s Cafe in downtown Regina:
The Regina version of Dr. Coffee’s was huge, colourful and child-friendly, necessarily so because my second daughter was born during our first few months in business, and she came to work with me in the cafe every day for her first year in the world! We had a children’s menu, special ‘babycinos’ and a toy corner in the cafe and gradually developed a community of new parents who could bring their little ones in there comfortably as well. As my daughter grew though, running the cafe full time and looking after her in there proved too much, and I eventually made the decision to step away from the cafe. My good friend Sheri took over and the cafe became Noni’s Prairie Cafe:
I couldn’t stay away for long of course, so I kept up my Wheelie Good Coffee on the market over the summers, expanded my coffee roasting so that I could supply Wheelie Good Coffee with my own beans (and you can find them at The Junction Creative Studio) and then moved into Centennial Mall this year.
I don’t know what is next in my coffee journey, but I’m confident that the road to success is paved in coffee beans! Bring it on!