Small business profile: Quitters Coffee
Brewing up community through hard work and creative ideas
A great coffee shop is more than the sum of its beans and espresso machines. It’s a magnet – a neighbourhood hot spot that brings people together over terrific lattes and fresh-baked scones. That’s the kind of place Kathleen Edwards had in mind when she decided to open Quitters Coffee.
It was 2014, and Edwards had recently hit pause on her successful career as a singer-songwriter (she has four albums, multiple Juno nominations and several appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman to her name). Needing a break from the spotlight, she returned to her hometown of Ottawa and settled in the suburb of Stittsville. She quickly sensed that it could use a new gathering place.
That fall, after leasing and renovating an old building, Edwards opened Quitters Coffee on a shoestring budget with just two staffers, including herself. Today, her thriving café has 17 employees, a selection of wine and craft beer, and even an ice cream truck.
Edwards wasn’t new to the coffee business. In the mid-’90s, she was a Starbucks barista in downtown Ottawa. That experience, and the coffee shop’s role as a community hub, stuck with her. “I loved the job,” says Edwards. “I learned how to work hard and hustle and expedite and schedule.”
She also soaked up plenty of café culture while on tour, visiting inspiring coffee shops around the world. Her business partner, Rick Tremblay, has coffee cred, too – he was Edwards’ boss at Starbucks.
From the beginning, Edwards has been a steady presence at Quitters, slinging lattes, baking muffins and mopping the floors. She didn’t know a soul when she moved to Stittsville. Now, she says, “I know everyone, and it’s actually a wonderful thing. I spent so many years on the road in a little bubble. I had my bandmates, and we were very close, but I never really felt like part of a community when I got home.”
The café’s memorable name was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek working title, but Edwards – who describes her sense of humour as acidic and sarcastic – couldn’t let it go, even though friends disliked it. She brainstormed other ideas but nothing fit. “There was no story,” she says. “It didn’t feel like me, and I was like, fine, it’s Quitters.”
Now that she’s created a gathering spot, Edwards plans to make it even more of a destination, with events, seasonal pop-ups, local foods, musicians and artists. She loves the variety of people who already frequent the shop – everyone from retirees to new moms and their babies to paramedics and firefighters. “It’s really cool,” she says. “It makes you appreciate that there are a lot of different people in your community you don’t see unless you’re out in it.”
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