Manitoban immigrants import the coffee beans they love from Ethiopia, roast them in your back yard and deliver them to your front door. They have found a way to thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic through personalized service and free home delivery.
Negash Coffee put down roots in Niverville, about 45 kilometres south of Winnipeg, two years ago, but serve their organic java across southern Manitoba.
The owners love the community but often are often asked, “Why Niverville?”
“We will have more of an opportunity of what we planned as a family to do in here than if we went to the big city,” said Henok Negash-Gebri, one of the owners. “We would be swallowed by the amount of coffee shops and roasters that’s out there.”
Adam Hashi, Negash-Gebri’s partner and one of the company’s CEOs, has lived in Manitoba since 1988 and dreamed of opening a coffee business based on the Ethiopian coffee beans that he knows.
Hashi’s nephew, Mohamed Ali, and his brother-in-law, Negash-Gebri, immigrated to Niverville from Ethiopia in 2015. Eventually, the trio partnered and Negash Coffee opened its doors in the spring of 2019.
“These are the beans that I grew up with. I know them. I know how to roast them in different ways to get a different texture and how they will turn out,” Hashi said.
Even before the men were forced to pivot because of the pandemic, they were wholesalers flexing their business to create special services for clients. They offer small and safe tours of their coffee shop and roasting facility, complete with a coffee tasting, and the chance to create your own custom coffee blend.
Traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremonies were also offered before the pandemic.
Also, because they’re located in Niverville, they made accessing their coffee convenient.
In 2019, they added a popular coffee subscription service, delivering coffee for free to their customers’ door steps. Corporate or residential clients can choose whole or ground beans, their quantity, and get their coffee delivered weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.
“We were brainstorming about what we can do to sell — to push — and coffee subscriptions kept coming up,” Ali said.
During Canada’s recent national small business week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau highlighted the need for the local community to consistently support local businesses.
“I invite Canadians to join me this week in thanking the small and medium-sized businesses for contributing so much to our country. I also encourage everyone to buy local, order takeout and show as much support as you can for our small businesses,” Trudeau said.
Niverville residents and the surrounding towns have done just that, Negash-Gebri says.
“The small towns around in here are like overwhelmingly supporting us from day one — during the pandemic and until now on a subscription base, you know, purchasing online from our website,” he said.
One of their most popular coffee flavours was created out of their desire to give back to the community. During their first year of business, they partnered with a local radio station and newspaper to create the “Mix Morning Blend.”
All proceeds from its sale went to charities, including $5,600 for he South Helping Hands, and for a local toy drive.
“They called it ‘The Christmas Miracle’ and to be honest with you, since then they’ve been calling for it,” said Negash-Gebri.
The shop is so popular even out-of-town visitors such as Marilyne Chapman, who came to Niverville from Kelowna, B.C., hear about it.
“I come to visit my family here. And my granddaughters, who are teenagers said, ‘Nana, you have to go to Negash Coffee — it’s so bougie’,” Chapman said. “I’m a coffee snob, so for me having good coffee is important. If I’m gonna to drink coffee, it better be good coffee.”
The “bougie” reference is because of the beautifully warm and yet classy decor you see upon entry to the shop that’s complete with large comfy armchairs, a circular crystal chandelier and African art accents.
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