Sunday 18 August 2013

MAKE Coffee + Hipster Names

After dinner on Corydon Avenue last weekend I headed in the direction of Starbucks for an early evening coffee. On the way there I stumbled upon MAKE / Coffee + Stuff.

could use a plant or something
I had never heard of the place, but MAKE, it turns out, is part of the growing trend of gourmet coffee shops in Winnipeg.

To my knowledge this trend began with Parlour Coffee, opened up by Nils Vik (the younger brother, coincidentally, of a dude I went to school with) a couple years ago. Parlour opened with a splash, both because it was boldly located on a neglected block of Main Street, but also because it was a new concept for Winnipeg.

Nils and his coffee shop have since been profiled in numerous magazines, web sites and newspaper articles. The buzz is likely to continue as Nils is soon to open a second location in Osborne Village called Little Sister Coffee Maker. I believe it will do very well there. The demographics work, and the departure of Fuel several years ago left a gaping hole in the coffee landscape of The Village.

Following in Parlour Coffee's footsteps are Café Postal on Provencher in St. Boniface and Thom Bargen on Sherbrook in the Wolseley area of Winnipeg ... and of course MAKE on Corydon.

MAKE did not arrive with the splash of some of the others. In fact, it has been open over half a year and I had no idea it was there. The interior of the narrow space is sparse and raw, but clean in appearance. The coffee is the focus here. The owner, Jay, is happy to explain everything to you. The beans are roasted on demand in Victoria and couriered out to Winnipeg, where Jay grinds them as needed for his brewed, drip and espresso-based beverages.

The proprietor making a coffee
An architect by trade, Jay combines his interests in this little shop with a series of displays along the wall featuring unique buildings designed by Winnipeg architects. It gives you something to look at as you wait for your coffee to be crafted, which can take a few minutes depending on which type you choose.
Architecture storyboards and models
He also hosts fashion shows and other events from time to time. What MAKE lacks in furniture and decor it makes up for in diversity.

I am glad to see this trend of high-end independent coffee shops springing up in the city.

On my one trip to Europe I drank americanos because you can't find brewed coffee in the places I went. I began to really enjoy this beverage, and returned to Winnipeg with fond memories of relaxing with an excellent cup of coffee in the cafés and pâtisseries of dense European cities.

When I returned to Winnipeg, I wanted to recapture some of that European café experience, so I ordered an americano at Starbucks. The gave it to me in a 12 oz cup. It tasted nothing like what I had remembered.

I still get my donut shop coffees and my Starbucks coffees, but until recently I have been avoiding americanos unless I was in a restaurant or lounge where I suspected they might know what they're doing. Now these new coffee shops give me another choice, and choice is good.

It's also nice to see small independent places with a good product succeed in a market dominated by giant corporations with their cheaper offerings. These kinds of places add to the character of a neighbourhood.

But as one positive trend continues, another nefarious one is emerging: math in store names.

When I first came across Deer + Almond I thought to myself "there is no bloody way I'm eating in a place with a pretentious bloody name like that." Of course I did end up eating there, and it was very good ... but I still don't like the name. What does it even mean? What does deer + almond equal? Jackalope?

I didn't concern myself with it too much as it's only one restaurant in a quirky part of town. But now ... I might be getting worried.

MAKE / Coffee + Stuff has not only picked up on the concept of adding math to a store name, but they've taken it one step further by including a division symbol as well as an addition symbol. This is getting waaaaay to complicated.

Understand, I'm not afraid of math. I have a Masters degree in Economics, as some of you know, and I can tell you that from 3rd year on economics is almost pure math. My problem here is that math has a place, and that place is not in the name of your store.

But it may be too late. As Derek Sivers explains in the TED talk How to start a movement, it is the first follower who turns a lone nut into a leader and ultimately starts a movement. Now that we have our first follower in this math nuttiness, I am afraid a movement may be starting.

What I'm saying is, a few months from now, don't be surprised if you're walking down Sherbrook and you see a store selling plaid shirts and beard trimmers with a name like ..


Anonymous said...

Some of the best coffee in Manitoba

cherenkov said...

Thanks for the link.

It says they are one of five roasters in Manitoba .. I believe there is one on Dufferin Ave or somewhere around there??

I thought about that too, when I was talking to Jay .. why not buy beans from a MB roaster? I didn't ask though .. assumed he wasn't happy with the flavour or quality.

John Dobbin said...

I was thinking of writing a post about how the coffee houses are going very local.

A lot of factors seems to be in play for their success. There is a more sophisticated taste for coffee and also a strong need for actual neighbourhood gathering spots that don't have a big parking lot and a drive-thru.

Wifi is a huge factor for the laptop and Smart Phone set. Hard to believe but even Tim Horton's has only really been Wifi the last two years.

I expect we'll see a few more neighbourhood see a rise in very local shops. Osborne Village is next.

cherenkov said...

Parlour Coffee doesn't have wifi, to encourage conversation between customers.

Yes, I think we could see a few more pop up. Osborne Village is definitely next with Little Sister opening soon, but there might be a few other places where it could work ... Academy, maybe downtown in the Broadway area, South Osborne ..

Anonymous said...

Love the americanos too. Much more flavour than drip. Had the best iced americano ever at Postal or Provencher. Great little coffee shop that adds character and community to the area.

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