High Road: Coffee, chocolate, local, oh my

A Kelowna chocolatier and coffee roaster are rejuvenating a forgotten block of Kelowna

It’s right off a bike path, five minutes from downtown, in a residential area and – not what you’d expect.

Just off Clement Avenue and Gordon Drive, the 1100 block of High Road is getting a whole lot of attention due to two tenants that have opened shop.

A match made in heaven – coffee and chocolate.

Kelowna chocolatier Julian Helman, with co-owner and retired chef Vincent LaPointe, opened Karat Chocolate to the public on April 10. The new store joining forces with next-door tenant Canoe Coffee Roasters to give the forgotten block a new lease on life.

“It’s up and coming ,” said LaPointe. “The city is trying to revitalize this area, we got wind of that and lucky for us a spot came open.”

For nearly a year chocolatier Helman sought out a store front on the busier streets, but found the rent unattainable.

“I had explored several roads around town, Bernard Street, Pandosy Avenue, the usual places, but unfortunately the $36-$39 per square foot was not an option,” said Helman.

“I think that is also part of the reason you see so many businesses shutting down here in Kelowna.”

To keep the business small, keep it local and keep it affordable he needed to find another option.

“Me and Dave from Canoe had worked together a little bit and done a few collaborations and I got a random phone call from him one day saying that the space next to him had opened, I was really excited,” said Helman.

“It was a no brainer to move in here. The company is coming up to its two-year anniversary. It started really, really small, but over the last year and a half I saved money, acquired inventory, worked hard and it allowed me to start his little place.”

The renovations were not pain free as the older building had some issues, but now the space is just what Helman had hoped for.

“It looks great, we are super happy with it. I love my neighbour next door and everyone in the community has been super supportive of us,” added Helman.

Canoe Coffee Roasters founder, barista and owner Dave Upshaw explained that he has been using the space on High Road to roast his coffee, store the coffee trailer and host the public.

“This area had no coffee in it,” explained Upshaw. “There is lots of residential around us, but we are right on the bike path so we have people passing through and it works out perfectly.”

Upshaw started roasting the beans in his garage with a home-built roaster and gained a following by serving coffee out of his trailer at the Kelowna Farmers’ Market each week for the last two years.

As his business grew, he bought a sophisticated roaster out of the states and started roasting the coffee on High Road about a year ago.

“We still sell at the Farmers’ Market, but now we also have this space to serve the community when we are not at the market.”

Posted by Kelowna Capital News on Thursday, April 13, 2017

As for why Upshaw left his previous career for coffee, it makes people happy.

“I love coffee,” said Upshaw. “It has always been a passion of mine. I tried other things, nothing made me happy, I always went back to coffee. The art and science of it, it is fun experimenting. I love making people happy, which coffee does.”

Why chocolate, Helman asks what’s not to love?

“Everything about it, learning about the different origins, the technicality of chocolate, how it’s made, the process of making it, the final product itself,” said Helman. “I am seriously addicted to it, not even making it, but the process of making it. Cracking out the molds, it’s addicting. When you see that shine and the colours it is pretty sweet.”

While the coffee shop and chocolatier are bringing customers to the block now, there are rumours a nearby residential neighbour is hoping to open his own Italian-style pizzeria in the near future to add to the block’s buzz.

“Things are happening here,” added Helman.

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Dave Upshaw of Canoe Coffee. - Image Credit: Carmen Weld

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