Café provides fair trade to Uptown

Have you ever wondered if the food you’re eating has a story?
If you wander into Seven Shores Urban Market and Café, store owner Sean Zister will tell you one.

Located at 8 Regina St. N., Seven Shores was nominated for Business of the Year 2010 (employees under 20) by the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce. The business targets customers who care about organic and fair trade products from fruits, vegetables and coffees to house wares and art.

“[Fair trade] is being transparent but also knowing directly where your product is coming from,” said Zister.

For Zister and his wife Amy, the passion was ignited by their travels to destinations like Kenya and Tanzania while they were teaching abroad. He said that when they saw local artisans, it made them think about how products from such places end up in North American hands.

“We wanted to find out more about the issues that are facing these artisans around the world… you think about the middle man controlling what happens in-between along with the issue of getting a proper wage to these artisans,” said Zister.

In 2003 when the couple returned to Canada to teach, they discovered a genuine interest from family and friends in the products they had returned with. So they set up shop at the St. Jacob’s farmers market armed with their fair trade goods.

Zister said it was the reaction they got that made them realize their calling.
“The first couple of months we got a real interest from our customer base and we said, ‘Yeah this is it’, and seven years later we’re still advocating and trying to get the word out.”

Until 2008, Seven Shores was a trading company in Kitchener with a focus on providing house wares and art. Then the café in uptown opened in July of that year and the warehouse closed after a few months. The Zisters’ focus changed from artisan pieces to food and Seven Shores Trading Company became Seven Shores Urban Market and Café.

The store offers a range of services. One can stop in for a cup of fair trade coffee and a certified organic sandwich or do shopping. Along with fair-trade products such as coffee and sandwiches, Seven Shores also provides a service that offers “food boxes” which can be ordered in-store or online, where patrons can pick out food items on a list that will be put together for you to take home.

For the Zisters, their goal has always been to make a difference in their community, no matter the size or the number of people that they reach.
Even though they are no longer teachers but entrepreneurs, for them it’s still about the education.

“This is a chance outside of the school walls to have our own classroom where we can educate as many people as we can about fair trade, about eating healthy, about organics, and other social issues that we are learning about,” explained Zister.