Café under new local ownership

Photo by Jessica Dik

Photo by Jessica Dik

The café, located at 10 Regina Street North, now has several owners and provides the opportunity for the rest of the community to invest by offering “community shares.”

Bryant and Sarah Whyte, Darren and Julie Demelo, Shaminda and Lisa Attygalle, Steve and Deb Tulloch, along with two other partners are the café’s common shareholders. Four out of the five couples currently have voting rights.

Preferred shares were issued to members of community in $500 increments with a four per cent dividend.

Investments made by the new owners and the community have allowed for the purchase of the business and funded changes in equipment and other upgrades.

Darren Demelo said the café continues to have a strong customer base with commitment from the community.

He and the other owners have been customers at the café for the past six years.

“There are people who are really invested here, so, just to give people the opportunity to invest their money a little bit more was really simple and easy. It wasn’t a hard sell because so many people love this place,” said Demelo.

Bryant Whyte added that members of community are more willing to invest when they know where their money is going.

Rather than investing in a big faceless corporation, Seven Shores is a place they can visit and actively reach those who are involved.

In this type of environment, Whyte explained it is impactful for the investors to see the effect of their investment on the café, whether it will be going towards a small change like a new coffee grinder or a bigger enhancement.

Within the past two months of new management, the café has accumulated 25 preferred shareholders.

The first few community shareholders were deeply tied to either the owners or the café, such as friends, family and regulars.

But after other sources of exposure about the initiative on the news and social media, many other members of the community have reached out.

“We had a lot of people from the community that have said, ‘we like what you’re doing, and we’d like to be a part of it’,” said Whyte.

The idea of community ownership came from similar values that all the core owners believe in.

The café stands on three pillars: ethical, relational and simple.

Whyte said the café must continue to be ethical, build relationships and to keep its plans simple.

“We also don’t need more headaches so if [what] you’re trying is too complicated it’s not worth it”, he said.

All core owners of the café also contribute a set of transferrable skills, as Whyte is responsible for finances, Tulloch is responsible for relationships with suppliers and farmers while Attygalle has started to put up her own art work in the café.

In terms of future plans, the owners want to increase the presence of the community through hosting events, implementing specials and tweaks in the menu.

The café is now open later on Thursday nights to accommodate musical events. It also plans to continue providing healthy and locally grown food.

“We’ve made pies from the Saskatoon berries that were grown on the trees outside, so it doesn’t get any more local than that,” said Whyte.

The overall goal for the café is to reach and maintain sustainability. Due to the numerous amount of support the community has invested into Seven Shores, the owners aim to pay back the community by keeping the space open.

“[The] bottom line is just really hoping to change people’s lives, better people’s lives … and from the customer standpoint, the best place to be in the city to get a bite to eat or to meet friends. Just the best place for that,” said Demelo.

 

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