The owner of one of Yellowknife’s original coffee shops has seen a lot in her 23 years of business.
When Leslie Bromley entered the coffee shop scene in 1997 there was only her and a small handful of others.
Before she bought the business on April 14, 1997 it was known as Pain du Toumont and was a coffee shop kiosk in YK Centre East.
“Taking the original business and increasing it many many times,” as she told Yellowknifer, has been one of the high points of running the cafe.
For nine-and-a-half years she operated the coffee shop and ran some catering out of an ice cream shop, then opened under the Gourmet Cup franchise in its current location in YK Centre Mall.
“The best thing about moving down here is I had walls and a door!” she said.
The Gourmet Cup chain is owned by the Shefield Group, based in Abbotsford, British Columbia.
One of the biggest changes Bromley has faced over the years is the growth of cafes in the city. At one point, within one block there were five coffee shops, she said.
“If somebody has opened a coffee shop that is more convenient to somebody else’s place of work they’re going to go there whether the coffee is great or not. It’s all convenience.
“We all have different brands of coffee and the customer has their preferred kind. A Tim Hortons customer is a Tim Hortons customer to their death and they won’t even acknowledge that we exist. Timmies coming downtown was a huge hit.”
Eighteen years in the business
Frankie Parker, a Red Seal chef by training joined Bromley as co-manager about a year and a half ago. She has been working with Bromley in varying capacities in the cafe for 18 years.
Through her bigger role in the business she expanded the kitchen, which has helped the cafe stand out amid the competition.
“The food is the one thing we’re doing different than the other coffee shops in town. Everything that we serve in-house is made in-house except for our bread. It’s all made with heart and soul in a small kitchen with two small girls,” Parker said.
The business isn’t only about dollars and cents for the pair and they regularly give sandwiches, coffee and other food items to the homeless.
“We have a pay it forward program,” said Parker. “We have a lady who comes twice a month and gives us $100 each time to put towards food. And we don’t sell day-olds. Anything that’s not for sale gets fed to the homeless, as well as with our catering events. Anything that’s left over at the end of the day we’re not going to resell. We package it up and drop it off at the shelters when we can.”
When asked what advice she has for aspiring entrepreneurs in Yellowknife who want to open cafes, Bromley skipped the business platitudes and responded, “Don’t (do it)! Run. There are so many of them, doing similar things ultimately.”
And after 23 years of doing her own thing, Bromley plans to pack it in and has for a year and a half been telling people the cafe is for sale.
The franchise expires in September of 2021 and Bromley isn’t going to renew it.
“No serious offers yet. I haven’t put a price on it. It’s for sale. If you’re serious about it we’ll discuss it.”
Even though Parker said she enjoys the work, she also wants to move on.
“I have a game plan for what I want to do with my life and I’ve spent many years in a coffee shop. As much as I love it it’s not what I want to be doing for the rest of my life.”