You can’t talk ‘community’ without talking about the people that help do the heavy listing (Freudian slip… meant lifting). When we start thinking about what it means to build community, the who is as important as the where. In our first Community Builder profile, we sat down with Nate Box, Restaurateur, Entrepreneur, and all the other positive connotations of ‘neur’ that you can think of. Nate’s culinary (and coffee-nary?) credits include Elm Cafe, District Coffee Co., Burrow, and Little Brick Cafe. Nate’s teams’ expression of style and flavour are an embodiment of what it means to contribute to community. To that end, we did our first Q&A to find out his take on “community” and how he does what he does. The secret sauce analogy seems to be appropriate, no?
COMM: Community. What does it mean to you?
NB: Loving, living and building into those people and places around you.
COMM: Since opening your first cafe, Elm, you have been at the forefront of Edmonton’s food movement. You’ve challenged what it means to be in the restaurant business, and focused on building community through food. Why is this concept important to you?
NB: We all work hard. We all work hard to earn a paycheque and should be intentional with how and where and what we put that towards. When this began, it was started with the challenge to build into my neighbourhood. To build something that me and my neighbours yearned for. To break bread together.
COMM: You’ve made unique choices for your business locations, be it small, underground or in residential neighbourhoods with little commercial presence. What’s important when choosing your location for your business(es)? Why Riverdale in particular for Little Brick?
NB: Really it comes down to services, need and opportunity. All four of the shops have been blessings. Elm was a random encounter that led to a challenge: to take what most would deem unusable and turn it into a gem. District was an opportunity to flex and take on a neighbourhood that was landlocked by major national brands. Burrow never existed and was the result of having conversations with the City around “what if…” Little Brick was an answer to us putting ourselves in the shoes of those that live in the neighbourhood, and thinking about how shitty it would be to not be able to walk anywhere for coffee. All the shops fill the need of providing quality service, food and coffee.
COMM: Since you started, what changes have you seen? Tell us a key lesson you have learned along the way.
NB: Ha! That’s a doozy of a question. On a more macro level, I’ve seen the food and beverage industry mature so much over the last five years in Edmonton. So many people pursuing passions and delving into exponential growth. Somewhat of a veil being lifted. People delivering truly remarkable product and service, to a city that is hungry, appreciative, and proud. Some examples close to my heart: Duchess giving birth to Provisions and their next new spot. Corso building Bricco and the much anticipated Uccellino, Three Boars with Farrow, Drift creating Dovetail, and Credo doubling up, to name a few. Confidence. On a more tangible/personal level I’ve learned to trust my instincts and my team a lot more. I can’t do this on my own, and I’ve got better support, love, and accountability around me now than ever before. And it’s something that truly grows each day.
COMM: What do you see as your next big challenge?
NB: Focusing on strengthening our current operations. Being able to discern between great future endeavours versus unnecessary distractions.
COMM: Give us your awards acceptance speech. Who, in your community, has made it all possible?
NB: Best. Interview. Question. Ever. Here it goes:
Wow! (insert disbelieving laugh for winning some really important Oscar-esque award) Thanks! Thanks to all of you (points across the audience) All of you made truly this possible! Got me to here. More specifically, I need to thank my parents, who without hesitation fully and wholeheartedly always believed in me, and continue to do so. (hand over heart) My brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews who loved and supported me in any way they could — from dinners, to helping with renos, to planning events, to cleaning, to design, to quality TV and hugs during down times. (fist bump) To my workmates. The team that tirelessly gets up each morning, day in and day out contribute their love and passion and effort to help make my dream a reality. In particular, Mike, Allan, Katherine, and Chael.
And endless thanks and love to Erica, who is a constant inspiration, confidant, and challenge. #onelove
It’s not uncommon to find the Principals of COMMUNITY hunched over a laptop (or sandwich) at any one of Nate’s cafes. In fact, our official launch party, calling on the luck of the Irish on March 17th, will be held in Riverdale at Little Brick Cafe.
Whether you live within walking distance or need to make a special trip to one of these four impressive establishments, take the time to appreciate what visionaries like Nate are doing to improve YEG communities.
Elm Cafe – 10140 117 St NW
District Coffee Co. – #101, 10011 109 St NW
Burrow – Central LRT Station, Jasper Ave
Little Brick Cafe – 10004 90 St NW