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Twiggs Coffee Roasters enters Sudbury java market

The North Bay-conceived chain will open its first coffee shop in the Nickel City this spring.

It’s not unusual for Jennifer Twigg’s loyal customers to take a detour into downtown North Bay, en route from Sudbury, just to get their favourite cup of joe.

Such is the popularity of Twiggs Coffee Roasters, a North Bay-originated brand of coffee shops that serve in-house, freshly roasted java from four different locations in the North Bay area.

But soon Sudburians will have a much shorter drive to get their Twiggs fix.

Twiggs announced in February it’s opening its first Sudbury location on the Kingsway, in a bustling retail shopping district.

“I’d really like to emphasize in a big way how excited we are to come to Sudbury,” said Twigg, the chain’s founder and owner. “So many of our customers have said, ‘Go to Sudbury.’”

Plans to open a location in the Nickel City go back as far as three years, but Twigg waited until time and circumstance were more favourable before making the move.

First, it was tough to find the right location, and then the company underwent a rebuild of its flagship store in downtown North Bay. Then business hit a busy patch, and Twigg was forced to put the Sudbury plans on hold.

But, after six months of planning, the build is back on track, with the new Sudbury store slated for an estimated June opening.

At 2,800 square feet, the Sudbury franchise will be slightly larger than a standard Twiggs outlet, but the shop will offer all the same fare that customers have come to enjoy, including healthful meals constructed in the deli, mouthwatering smoothies blended with real fruit, and catering orders prepared for meetings and other events.

And, of course, the coffee, brewed from organic, fair trade beans roasted right on the property.

It’s not uncommon to come across in-house roasting and blending today, but when Twigg first transplanted the idea to Northern Ontario, it was an anomaly for the region.

Twigg had been living in Powell River, B.C., a city of 13,000 along B.C.’s Sunshine Coast, when coffee culture suddenly began to flourish, Twigg said.

“This was in the early ’90s,” Twigg recalled. “Coffee had exploded in the lower mainland of B.C. and Alberta, and so we thought this was just the most grand thing in the whole world.”

With plans to move to North Bay, Twigg and her family decided to bring the concept of freshly roasted coffee with them. In 1995, Twigg opened her first location on Fraser Street in downtown North Bay. Yet, as excited as she was to share the concept with the city, the city took a little longer to twig to the idea.

“North Bay was not ready for on-site coffee roasting, organic anything,” Twigg laughed. “We just about starved to death for the first eight years.”

But, Twigg persisted, and slowly but surely, diehard doughnut and double-double fans began to appreciate the high-quality alternatives Twiggs offered.

“In that time period, it really strengthened our resolve to keep up with the trends and move forward with the trends, or even ahead of them; in order to survive we had to,” Twigg said. “I think fighting for that niche market was probably a good thing.”

For her persistence and sharp business acumen, Northern Ontario Business awarded Twiggs the First Nations Business Award of Excellence in 2008.

By 2009, Twiggs had a second location in the children’s treatment centre One Kids Place, and a third location, in the city’s east end, opened the following year. A fourth location opened in Sturgeon Falls in 2013.

The Sudbury store will be operated by a couple from North Bay who plan to relocate to Sudbury.

In preparation for its launch, Twigg said extensive training is required to ensure the franchisees and employees maintain Twigg’s exacting standards around procedure and customer service.

“That’s what we’re working on right now, just making sure that we have every item down, from unlocking the door in the morning right to closing and locking the door at night,” Twigg said. “So, all those policies and procedures have to be exact.”

Architectural drawings for the shop are still being finalized, but Twigg and her crew gained access to the building on March 1.

“All the features will be the same (as the other locations),” Twigg said. “Probably the only issue that was debated, and finally we made the decision on, was whether we’re going to roast coffee at that location, and we will be. So there will be a roaster on site.”

Twigg said the company also has a second Sudbury shop in the works, and the hunt for a location will likely start shortly after the Kingsway site opens this spring.

There are also plans to open a fourth North Bay store, and then Twigg will shift her eye south to Barrie, the future home of the next franchise.

Twigg estimates the Sudbury location will require between 35 and 40 full- and part-time staff. The coffeehouse will hold a job fair in April.