Coffee leaves subway for Corydon corner – Winnipeg Free Press

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An independent Winnipeg coffee company has revamped its chain, closing its underground Portage and Main kiosk and opening a 1,300 square foot cafe on Corydon Avenue.

Thom Bargen Coffee Roasters opened in the Portage and Main “Circus” kiosk in 2018 with the goal of providing downtown workers with their daily caffeine. For a while, that formula worked, but the work-from-home adaptations of the pandemic dealt the small satellite location a major blow. Similar pains were felt at the company’s Kennedy Street spot, which was the busiest spot the minute before the pandemic, co-owner Graham Bargen said.

The company’s Sherbrook Street store temporarily turned into a hub for retail and online merchandise, and the company began roasting its own coffee in a West End brewery, but when pandemic restrictions eased, crowds started to return, prompting entrepreneurs to look elsewhere. for a new store open seven days a week.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Thom Bargen co-owner Graham Bargen has big plans for the cafe’s new location on Corydon Avenue, on a busy and highly competitive cafe stretch.

Bargen and co-owner Thom Hiebert turned to their old tasting grounds on Corydon Avenue.

“Thom lived in Wentworth and I lived in Grosvenor and Arbuthnot,” says Bargen. “Long before the days of specialty coffees, Starbucks (in Corydon and Cockburn) was where we came to. It was an epic place.

When the pandemic began, the Seattle coffee giant launched plans to scale back its Canadian storefronts, closing 300 locations by March 2021 and switching to drive-thru, delivery and curbside pickup stores.

One of those 300 was the Corydon store. It has since become a cannabis dispensary, but the storefront next door – a former Perth dry-cleaning outpost – was up for rent.

“When space got here, it ticked all of our boxes resoundingly.”–Graham Bargen, co-owner

“When space arrived here, it ticked all of our boxes resoundingly,” Bargen says. The store is directly around the corner, with shared parking and lots of natural light, especially with the installation of new windows. The only downside was the rent, almost double what the company pays on Sherbrooke or Kennedy streets.

In the end, the assets outweighed the liabilities, and the company began renovating what had essentially been used by the dry cleaner as a storage facility. New windows, wood slat ceilings and a black porcelain bar were installed. The space, designed by the company, took shape throughout the first half of 2022.

The company has big plans for the Corydon location, including a shared breakfast menu, dinner and snacks and a focus on natural wine, which Bargen says has parallels to the types of cafes on offer. . Roasting operations have moved beyond Barn Hammer Brewing Co.’s shared Wall Street brewery space and are moving to the Kennedy site, where Bargen hopes customers will get a better view of the production process.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Thom Bargen’s barista, Valerriia Kulish, prepares specialty coffee drinks in the store’s new location on Corydon Avenue, a former Perth’s.

When the hip roaster’s latest shop opened on Corydon last weekend, customers poured in, with 550 drinks purchased. A typical weekend day typically approaches 300 drinks sold, Bargen says. Tuesday morning around 11am, none of the cafe tables were available.

With the arrival of the new shop, Corydonites on this stretch of the venerable avenue now find themselves with perhaps more coffee options than anywhere else in the city.

Just across from Thom Bargen is the must-visit Bar Italia, renowned for its no-frills espresso and cappuccino. A stone’s throw away, the stylish MAKE Coffee + Stuff offers a curated list of teas and coffees in a beautifully designed environment. Just down the street, inside the famous Riley Grae shop, Never Better Coffee offers roasters from around the world, from Edinburgh to Rotterdam to Montreal. Across the road, Cocoabeans Gluten-Free Cafe and Bakeshop offers its own delicacies.

But there is another entrant into the fray.

When Thom Bargen Coffee Roasters’ latest store opened on Corydon, customers poured in, with 550 drinks purchased. (Ruth Bonneville/Winnipeg Free Press files)

Starbucks, which left the neighborhood earlier in the pandemic, is returning. The giant chain is currently renovating the former double Harvey’s/Swiss Chalet storefront on the corner of Stafford Street and Corydon Avenue, installing a drive-thru and preparing to throw its big hat into the ring.

“I thought it was too good to be true to have this whole stretch of Corydon without Starbucks,” Bargen laughs. “I guess they do their market research.”

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Ben Waldman
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