Happy Goat opening new caf​é inside Centretown Staples co-working space

Happy Goat Staples store
Happy Goat Staples store

Tenants of Staples’ new co-working space at the office supply retailer’s downtown store on Bank Street won’t have to go far to get a cup of inspiration, thanks to a partnership with one of Ottawa’s fastest-growing coffee chains.

When the revamped Staples store at 403 Bank St. officially reopens Saturday morning, it will feature more than just stationery and other office supplies, laptops, assorted electronics and, well, staples. The new-look retail outlet will also be home to Ottawa’s newest co-working space, Staples Studio, as well as a component that’s become a fixture at retail businesses such as bookstores but isn’t normally associated with office supply stores: a coffee shop.

The caffeine that will help fuel the entrepreneurs who occupy the desks at Staples Studio is being supplied by Happy Goat Coffee. It will be the local chain’s eighth shop in Ottawa, and the first located inside another business.

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When Staples Canada executives first floated the idea a few months back, Happy Goat’s owners weren’t sure if the retail giant ​– which operates more than 300 stores across the country ​– would be a good fit with their hyper-local brand.

“At the beginning, I was very skeptical,” says Henry Assad, the majority owner of the Hintonburg-born coffee chain. “We never really thought that we would fit into a big box store and a big corporation.”

But he and business partner Ahmet Oktar were soon won over by Staples’ plan to offer work space and other services such as Wi-Fi and a podcast recording booth within the confines of the Bank Street store. In addition, Staples is teaming up with the Happy Goat crew to offer another bonus to co-working tenants that gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘office perk’: free coffee. 

“When they explained the concept, we were very impressed,” Assad says. “We were looking at each other and saying, ‘OK, this is actually cool.’ We are excited to see how small businesses can actually benefit from all this.”

Happy Goat grazing throughout Ottawa

Assad calls the new partnership “another avenue” to attract new clientele. But it’s far from the company’s only bid to expose its brand to more local coffee connoisseurs. 

Happy Goat is on a bit of an expansion spree lately. The chain recently opened new stores in a former Starbucks on Bank Street in Old Ottawa South as well as Main Street, and the company is poised to launch its first franchised location on Queen Street later this month. It’s also partnering with another popular destination for local foodies, Maverick’s Donuts, to bring a new location to Westboro.

But the company isn’t stopping there. Happy Goat is also working with a couple of “well-known” food industry veterans to transform its current shop at Bank Street and Sunnyside Avenue into a casual, mid-priced eatery.

“It’ll be a lot more than just a caf​é,” Assad says. “It’ll be more food-focused.”

In addition, the chain won a bid to operate kiosks at four stations – Blair, Hurdman, Rideau and Tunney’s Pasture – on the new Confederation LRT Line. It expects to open the first two outlets targeted at train riders by the middle of April, with the others expected to be ready for business by the end of May.

Assad says another priority is boosting the wholesale side of the business, which currently accounts for about 35 per cent of annual revenues. The company now sells beans to food retailers such as Sobeys and select Your Independent Grocer locations in the Ottawa region, and it’s on the verge of inking a deal that will see Happy Goat’s grounds appear on shelves at Farm Boy stores across the province.

Now at 110 employees, Happy Goat expects to reach a headcount of 170 once the LRT kiosks are up and running at full capacity this summer. There’s a lot brewing at the chain’s headquarters on Laurel Street in Hintonburg, but Assad says he sees plenty of room for much more growth ahead. 

In fact, he says he’s already scouting out new sources of capital to help the chain expand beyond Ottawa’s borders to other major markets such as Toronto and Montreal. Likening the specialty coffee business to another beverage industry that’s experiencing explosive growth, craft brewing, he says competition within the sector fuels experimentation and diversity that stokes java-lovers’ thirst for more.

“We believe that coffee is a recession-proof product,” he explains earnestly. “Coffee is not just a food item. As our roaster, Hans (Langenbahn), always says, it’s an addiction – but it’s an addiction with a social benefit. That’s why in our opinion, a caf​é on every corner is not too many.”

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