Robin and I walked by the small shop nearly every day. We watched workers carrying tools and lumber. An outside deck began to take shape. Then a sign appeared announcing "gi0bean", with a squiggle through the 0, turning the letter into a coffee bean.
I was skeptical. Kelowna's downtown core is small. By my count there were already more coffee shops than customers. To add yet another risk factor, we learned the new owners were immigrants—Giovanni from Italy, his wife Lucy from England. Young enough to have a sense of adventure, old enough to be parents of teenagers.
Besides, the space was so small it couldn't hold enough people. British Columbia isn't Italy, where people happily stand, focus on a quality cup of coffee, then leave. Coffee culture in Canada includes long periods of conversation, book reading, or connecting laptops to wireless and checking e-mails, watching videos, or writing the next best seller. At a few dollars per seat, the math didn't add up to a profitable venture.
I reckoned without Giovanni Lauretta and his business savvy, his attention to detail, his commitment to the finest coffee, and the force of his congenial personality. The location is in an upscale section of downtown. It's the heart of the Cultural District, across the street from the court house, a block from city hall, and part of a complex that houses a major hotel, casino, and several restaurants.
Before long, our fitness group had abandoned the nearby coffee shops to shoehorn ourselves into the place where those of us who are real coffee lovers can buy a cup of the best java in town. Besides, Giovanni, Lucy, and the staff always greeted us like honoured guests, in spite of our rearranging the furniture and settling in for a good visit. When the first anniversary rolled around, we felt like royalty when we were all invited to help celebrate.
Sure, we're regular customers, but we're not big spenders. We're all seniors on a budget. Still, Giovanni always makes us feel like part of the coffee shop's extended family.
Besides, Gi0bean serves the best coffee in Kelowna. When Robin's daughter and her partner spent two weeks with us a few years back, they were hypercritical of Canadian coffee. We spent five months in Australia and learned why their standards were so high. Next time they come back, we'll take them to Gi0bean. That will change their minds.
It's not just the quality of the coffee that makes me add Gi0bean to the list of things that make me optimistic. It's the strength of a dream. Giovanni and Lucy hold that dream in front of them like a shining beacon. They don't just follow its light. They do everything possible to make it a reality. That's what it takes: vision, determination, and a lot of hard work.
Thanks for the inspiration, Gi0bean.