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Coffee Culture sweetens the deal for franchise owner

Cathy Dobson The Lochiel Street Coffee Culture Café & Eatery is the first in the franchise to hit $1 million in sales, says owner Eric Parsons.
Eric Parsons, owner of the new Coffee Culture on London Road, as well as Sarnia’s original location on Lochiel. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

The Lochiel Street Coffee Culture Café & Eatery is the first in the franchise to hit $1 million in sales, says owner Eric Parsons.

He’s reluctant to blow his own horn but agrees it will help explain why he’s opened a second Coffee Culture franchise in Sarnia.

Parsons says he bought the downtown location four years ago at a time when it had the lowest return of any of the 70 Coffee Cultures in Canada.  It wasn’t long before the former UBE Automotive manager completely turned the business around.

“It took two years for the Lochiel location to be number one,” said Parsons. “For me, it is about customer service and pride in the work we do.

“I also believe in the product.”

Coffee Culture Café & Eatery is a family-owned corporation that started in Mississauga in 2006 and now has locations in Ontario, Manitoba and Florida.

Last week, Parsons opened the latest Coffee Culture at 1249 London Road. Almost right away he realized he needs more tables, more chairs and more staff.

The new café has seating for 50 and will soon have seating for 60.  It’s a franchise, so it closely resembles the location on Lochiel: tin ceiling, fireplace, booths, and big cozy chairs in chocolate brown and cherry tones.

The key to Coffee Culture’s success is that customers can enjoy a meal in an environment that invites them to linger, says Parsons.

Ironically, he wasn’t even considering ownership of the London Road location until a month ago.

The corporation had chosen the spot and was searching for a franchisee.

“We weren’t interested,” he said, referring to himself and wife Dena Parsons. “We also have a Coffee Culture in Strathroy. We’re already busy.  I just didn’t have the energy.”

But Coffee Culture apparently sweetened the deal.

“I had five reasons not to take this franchise,” said Parsons. “We sat down to negotiate and they resolved four of the five. The fifth was that I have had no vacation.”

He still won’t get a holiday for a while, but it’s a sacrifice he’s willing to make.

Customers have quickly found the new location.

In its first week, London Road had the same line-ups and mealtime rush that the Lochiel Street café enjoys. The 15 full and part-time staff hired for London Road are having to catch on quickly. Resumes are still being accepted.

Coffee Culture features specialty coffees like flavoured lattes that sell for $4.25 (medium). Fair trade organic coffees and teas are available, as are frozen drinks like Oreo crumble that costs $3.75 (12 oz) and $4.40 (16 oz).

Baked goods are made onsite every day and include croissants ($2); muffins ($2.25); brownies ($2.95); and cookies ($1.65). Cheesecake and mousse are delivered from New York.

Paninis ($5.95 - $7.95), wraps, flatbreads and sandwiches are popular items and Coffee Culture serves breakfast all day. Open seven days a week.

Got an interesting business story? Contact Cathy Dobson at [email protected] or 226-932-0985.

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