By Mbabazi S Shumbusho.
There’s a family friendly atmosphere when you enter this community cafe, the reception is warm and inviting. One can easily mistake it for a neighbourhood community centre. Seven Shores Community Cafe located in Waterloo, ON is striving to provide local food while building and maintaining community relationships. Ten people own this cafe; five couples to be exact who were regular customers and decided to come together to purchase the establishment from Shawn, the previous owner. In addition to the ten owners, the cafe sold shares to the community in 2015 to raise operating capital and also integrate the community into the project. The community shareholders (also known as preferred shareholders) own seventy shares but do not have any voting rights and do not partake in any decision-making. One wonders how ten owners work so well together but as co-owners Steve Tulloch and Sarah Whyte point out, having ten owners who are passionate about local food and community relationships makes it easier. Four owners currently work on the day to day running of the cafe while the remaining six owners work as advisors. To really make this work, Steve and Sarah insist that trusting one another is the key to their successful ownership and operation.
Their slogan ‘Simple, Ethical and Relational’ means good food produced using ethical practices which are local, organic using direct trade or fair trade, good living wages and maintaining a healthy relationship with the community.
Seven Shores Community Cafe
Sourcing produce is an on-going initiative but at present the cafe works with a local grassroots initiative known as sustainable markets https://sustainablemarket.ca, an online market that buys produce directly from farmers. They also have personal relationships with farmers and local suppliers. This is evident through table place cards that summarize each supplier’s story and their produce. The cards build a bridge between customers and suppliers. Steve explains that these place cards are given to customers so they know where their food is coming from. As Steve and Sarah explain, the benefits of working with local suppliers, food initiatives and farmers is that they are able to help out suppliers when they have extra produce, for example ugly produce, that is not purchased by the big institutions as it does not meet their standards. When it comes to coffee, they source their beans from South America (Peru) and Africa (Ethiopia) by working directly with the coffee producers to make sure that the coffee is fairly traded. This relationship was built by the previous owner and was adopted by the new ownership.
Table Place Card
As they say in their slogan, the owners take community relationships seriously. They put a premium on building relationships with the surrounding community members and suppliers. The cafe has a community room that can be rented out at an affordable price, $25 per hour or the occupants can buy $25 equivalent of food. The community room is a space for everyone. Steve mentioned that, for example, mother and baby groups rent the space as a place to gather. The cafe is also home to a small vegetable garden run by two high school students. Once ready for harvest, the vegetables are sold at the entrance of the cafe. Not only is Seven Shores Community Cafe promoting local sustainable food but it is also helping the community learn about the importance of growing and consuming fresh local food. The owners have realized that building community relationships also comes with being socially responsible. They have hired skilled refugees so they are able to integrate into Canadian society while earning a living wage.
Vegetable garden at the entrance of the café
Seven Shores community cafe is a space where everyone can feel like they belong, where one can have a good conversation or just read a book and try out delicious local food. For more information, please visit their website http://www.sevenshores.ca
I would like to thank Seven Shores Community Cafe, Sarah Whyte & Steve Tulloch for taking their time out of their busy schedules for the interview.