Downtown Yellowknifers will soon be able to resume picking up a locally roasted hot cup of joe (and perhaps a baked treat). Barren Ground Coffee will perform a “pandemic relaunch” this Wednesday.
The coffee retailer closed its 52 Street and 51 Avenue store in March at the height of Covid-19’s initial onset, just three months after moving from its previous location in Old Town.
Since then, owner Eric Binion told Cabin Radio, Barren Ground’s online sales have grown exponentially, filling the gap created by the closure of wholesale clients.
Binion estimates online sales of coffee and brewing equipment rose from two percent of the company’s revenue to more than half.
“Everyone was at home self-isolating or working, so everyone was drinking coffee at home,” he said. “We had quickly moved online and were doing free delivery, and it was pretty busy for March, April, May, June.”
Now, Barren Ground has hired new staff for its store reopening and revamped its menu while purchasing a new roaster.
“A month or two ago, I was a little bit apprehensive when we were talking about this idea – not necessarily from the Covid standpoint, but more from like a business case,” Binion said.
“Will this be feasible? Will we be making enough money to cover all of our expenses during Covid?
“But once we got everything going – and everything looks good – I’m feeling comfortable about the safety and risk mitigation factor.”
There are new safety measures in the store. Plexiglass has been installed around the checkout counter and arrows are taped to the floor to direct customers.
The new baked goods menu will be made fresh daily by Jeremy Flatt of the Fat Fox Café – a natural partnership given the Covid-19 restrictions both establishments are facing, Binion said.
Binion now hopes to keep Barren Ground’s online reach steady while expanding into “underserved areas,” such as northern Alberta, “to keep the online sales momentum going.”
In the meantime, he’ll be closely watching how the Yellowknife reopening goes.
“People have been asking about it around town, and I think people are going to be receptive,” he said.
“We’ll just have to hope that not everyone comes out at once, but everyone trickles in over a period of a week.
“We’re pretty excited to get launched… finally.”
This coverage of the NWT’s business sector during the Covid-19 pandemic is sponsored by the NWT’s Department of Industry, Tourism, and Investment. Visit Buy North for more information on businesses near you.