Original Published on Aug 29, 2022 at 14:31
By Marisela Amador, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Mike David and his sister Julie Anne are really excited about the future. The siblings, both entrepreneurs, recently took over ownership of Moccasin Joe, a popular coffee roasting company in the community.
Mike recounted that earlier this year, his parents Walter and Lise, who opened the micro-roastery in 2007, started talking about finally retiring.
“Me and my sister kind of had a conversation one day, and we’re like, you know, we don’t want to see it go into retirement with them. They started it 15 years ago. Coffee has been a big thing in our life, really, ever since,” said Mike.
“Me and my sister tend to be fairly entrepreneurial. We have other businesses. We definitely like the creative challenge that any business offers.”
Currently, the business is undergoing a major rebrand with new packaging and a new website, as well as updated social media accounts.
“We’re looking at all of the possibilities of where to take it, how far to take the science, how far to take the art. I think we really enjoy creating brands,” he said.
“I love marketing, for example. And it really was just a fun endeavour to take on. And definitely to put our spin on it. We definitely want to put our aesthetic, feel and ideas into it.”
However, the entrepreneur said that they needed to keep the soul of the business – his parents – intact.
“I mean, it definitely starts with my dad and mom’s passion for coffee and roasting. Their focus on product quality. They’ve really gone above and beyond to ensure a good product,” said Mike.
“I think that was the other thing, too, seeing the potential of the business because the product really is good.”
Prior to opening Moccasin Joe, Walter was an ironworker who worked all over the US and Canada. He said that while on the road, going from one job site to the next, with sometimes thousands of kilometres in between, coffee became an important part of his everyday life.
“So, over those years, I kept searching for good coffee and couldn’t find it. And then one time in Yonkers, New York, I think it was a whole food store, I walked right in there, and they had a roastery. And they roasted, and it was fresh. I could smell it, and it was nice. I just had to have a bag. And I never forgot that. So that started me on that road,” he said.
He eventually left the trade because of the harsh physical demands of the job.
“I had an operation on the neck. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t work anymore, I just couldn’t do it. I lost my grip. I lost my balance. And then I said, ‘I have to get out of it.’”
Subsequently, Walter started exploring the world of coffee and ended up falling in love.
He started by visiting roasteries in Montreal and delving deep into the science of artisanal coffee roasting. He later travelled to Vermont, Toronto, Minnesota, and California and eventually ended up in Panama as he continued his quest to accumulate as much knowledge as possible about the process, industry and products.
“It was a heck of a journey,” he said.
Now, Julie Anne is following in his footsteps. Mike explained that his sister has been learning the craft and developing a passion for it.
“My sister is definitely the hands-on technician like my father. So, I’m glad he’s going to be able to pass along all of that knowledge to us,” he said.
The siblings want to take the business to the next level and are hoping to eventually introduce new blends that will complement their existing selection, like the very popular espresso blend that Walter and Lise perfected over the years.
Maintaining and creating relationships with farmers and importers is another aspect of the business that they are working on as well.
“We went to a conference in Boston a couple of months ago. It was crazy to see the new technologies and how the industry is developing on every level. And I think one of our goals is to really double down on the connection to the Indigenous aspect of where most of these coffee beans come from,” said Mike.
Mike and Julie Anne have been contemplating the idea of creating an Indigenous-to-Indigenous coffee alliance. Choosing farms that are either 100 percent Indigenous owned or, at the very least, majority owned.
“We really want to build Indigenous ownership throughout the whole supply chain from processing to milling,” he said.
“We’re going to create our kind of in-house certification process that follows certain criteria, and one of the big criteria is going to be a supply chain, or at least starting from the farmer where the majority of the farm is Indigenous-owned.”
He explained that their longterm goal is to help Indigenous farmers create their own supply chain while also trying to establish a strong relationship with them.
Du pain sur la planche, a bakery located in Saint-Joseph-du-Lac, started offering Moccasin Joe coffee in June after the owner, Mylène Monceau, tried it for the first time and realized it was of exceptional quality.
“In addition, given that we want to offer local products as much as possible to our customers, Moccasin Joe met this criterion. This is the coffee we sell on the shelves as well as the one we use to prepare the coffees sold on site,” said Monceau.
“The customers appreciate the freshness of the products and that it is local. Several customers discovered this coffee for the first time at the bakery.”
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This item reprinted with permission from The Eastern Door, Kahnawake, Quebec