Resolve 2013: Gamble on something good. Mount Currie Coffee Co expands to Whistler.
We’ve checked in with Chris Ankeny at MCCC before – but now the local coffee fanatic is generating fresh buzz, splitting his time between Pemby and a new Whistler location, with a clear mission to lead Whistlerites out of the coffee wilderness.
As he told Whistler’s hottest foodie writer, Laura Gallant, this week in the Question: “Being a small independent you can strive for quality. Big chains like Starbucks or Blenz are forced to produce the same consistency across all stores. That focus on consistency takes away from the quality, and as a result they produce a very average cup of coffee. If you pay $5 for coffee you should really be getting something amazing, not just a mediocre product.”
We asked him why risk a good thing and his 5 year running Best Latte crown in a new location on Whistler’s Main Street (across from the 7-11) that is quite the hotspot for quality affordable eats in Whistler (think Splitz Grill, Pasta Lupino, and Dups) and discovered that the man is 100% committed to bringing quality coffee to the people.
What would you say have been the 3 ingredients of success at Mount Currie Coffee Co, Pemberton?
Quality product, good location, and friendly service.
Can you basically just export that formula to Whistler? Or does it require a little bit of tweaking for the Whistler market?
Yes, I think we can basically clone our business model for Whistler. Our business is continually evolving. We are always trying to make everything better and in that regard we are offering something that did not exist in Whistler until now. Our prices are the same in both locations to cater to the locals. In many ways, the way we have grown and evolved MCCC, Whistler is the perfect market for our business model.
You turned Pemberton’s Coffee Siberia into a mecca when you opened MCCC in P-ton. Did you have a particularly warm welcome back then? Have you had a similarly warm welcome in Whistler?
We had an amazingly warm welcome 5 years ago in Pemberton and have felt the same response in Whistler. So many people have thanked us for opening up, comments like that really give me confidence that we have made the right decision to grow the business.
How many familiar faces are you seeing at your new Whistler location?
We are seeing so many of our Pemberton regulars in Whistler, it’s been awesome. We have a big family of regulars that support us and for that I am so thankful. I really don’t see it having a negative effect on the Pemberton cafe, I feel like people are actually coming to both cafes, just at different times of the day.
You’ve picked awesome corner locations for both your cafes now… Were you waiting for real estate like that to come up in Whistler, before you pulled the trigger?
My goal has always been to cater to the locals and I feel that both locations are easy to pull up and park for a quick coffee on your way to play or work. I had been looking in Whistler for awhile and I knew that I wanted to be somewhere with convenient parking, I wanted to make sure it was accessible by car because that is so critical. Whistler is so expensive that many locations just don’t make sense for coffee, I had to find a space that was a bit smaller and more of a destination to keep the numbers in check. Locals are the priority and tourists looking for quality will find us.
What’s the biggest risk a small business faces when considering expanding?
Financially making ends meet, keeping consistency across both locations, and having key employees that can take on much of the responsibilities because you can only be in one place at a time.
How did you mitigate, or rationalise away, those risks? ie What made you declare Now or Never, and pull that trigger?
It’s a gamble, plain and simple, and a big one at that. It is something that you really have to believe in and know deep-down will work. Its something that you have to be willing to sacrifice for. There is a lot that went into making the decision to open in Whistler. I had been researching and crunching numbers for a long time. The advantage I have this time around is 5 years of experience and a brand and reputation that a lot of locals know.
I really felt that Whistler deserved a better coffee experience and I wanted to be the person that brought it.
Any successful business is anchored in real passion. What are your passions?
I just love great coffee and get a lot of pleasure by brightening my customer’s days. There is kind of a magic involved with the coffee we are sourcing, it is some of the best coffee in the world and it’s my job to make sure we don’t mess up the last part of the process. I am passionate about this place, it is an amazing part of the world we live in and that attracts amazing people. The business has been an avenue to connect with these people and that has been really rewarding.
What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?
Do your homework and be prepared to work harder than you thought possible.
What has been the biggest hurdle/challenge, in opening your Whistler location?
The construction is always stressful because there is so much out of your control with regards to the actual cost. The initial launch is a huge hurdle, you have an entire new staff to train and at the same time want to have the best first impression with your customers. It is so critical that you nail everything right off the bat and then keep the consistency.
How many days have you been open there?
We have been open for a month now and the response has been amazing. There was such a great buzz leading up to us opening and when we finally opened the doors everyone has been so supportive.
Finally, seriously, how happy are Whistlerites to have decent coffee, at last?
We have heard so many “thanks for finally opening in Whistler” comments, its unreal.
There are an overwhelming number of people that love great coffee and we are stoked to bring it!