CAFÉ AU YAY!

Best Health - - WOW WOMEN -

With nu­mer­ous cur­rent and up­comin­glo­ca­tions in south­ern On­tario, there’s plenty of proof that Olsen knows all too well that a crav­ing may draw you into a café, but the at­mos­phere has to make you want to stick around.

Ex­hibit A: the packed pa­tio of cus­tomers en­joy­ing the In­sta­gram-wor­thy Cof­fee in a Cone – a must-see, must­try treat. “There are a lot of mil­len­ni­als who love their food, cof­fee and beer,” she says. “I wish there were more of those peo­ple around when I opened. I spent a lot of time ex­plain­ing to peo­ple that I was roast­ing cof­fee fresh – it took awhile to really take off.”

Be­yond keep­ing an eye out for in­no­va­tive ideas, Olsen names de­sign as the most ex­cit­ing part of her job. There isn’t an inch of the Balzac’s en­vi­ron­ment that she hasn’t cu­rated. At her Lib­erty Vil­lage spot, her eyes light up while point­ing out the zinc bar sourced in Paris and the or­nate floor­ing tiles she had de­signed in the Do­mini­can Repub­lic. “I kind of look at the space and neigh­bour­hood I’m go­ing into and pay homage to them,” she says of her process.

Olsen also com­mis­sions orig­i­nal posters cre­ated in the spirit of vin­tage Euro­pean cof­fee­house art­work for every lo­ca­tion. Plus, there are al­ways plenty of an­tique touches on dis­play. “I could open a cof­fee mu­seum!” she says. “I have 13 cafés that have all these col­lecta­bles in them. The older and more scratched they are, the bet­ter.”

Sourc­ing ma­te­ri­als and col­lab­o­rat­ing with ar­ti­sans make Olsen’s cur­rent to-do list starkly dif­fer­ent than when she started out. Be­fore set­ting up a bricks-and­mor­tar cof­fee­house in 1996, she spent sev­eral years op­er­at­ing sea­sonal cof­fee carts in high-traf­fic tourist des­ti­na­tions in Toronto. “It wasn’t a kiosk that you could drive like a food truck,” she says. “You had to set up the elec­tri­cal, plumb­ing and ev­ery­thing. It was just bru­tal. I wasn’t break­ing even, but it was some­thing new and unique and I liked do­ing it be­cause no one was do­ing that.”

When a cus­tomer at the Royal Agri­cul­tural Win­ter Fair sug­gested that she open a café in Strat­ford, ON, she made a visit and dis­cov­ered the per­fect place. After open­ing her sec­ond café, Olsen learned the power of be­com­ing less hands-on and the strength of a de­pend­able team. “When you have a busi­ness with more than one lo­ca­tion, you can’t be at both at once, so you really shouldn’t have to be at ei­ther,” she says. “I re­al­ized that no­body needs me any­where; I just need to make sure that there are good peo­ple in place.”

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