When Jorel and Mikayla Pepin first toured the Great West Saddlery Building on 104 Street, they saw their future. They hope their pop-up coffee shop, Fawkes Coffee & Doughnuts, is just the beginning.
"You know, when you meet people, and you feel you've been friends with them forever, there was something organic and natural," Jorel said of the 111-year-old space just north of Jasper Avenue, where they've been doing great business selling cold-brew coffees and vegan cake doughnuts since July 22.
They met and fell in love running cafés together. Jorel's family owned and operated Block 1912 on Whyte Avenue until 2020, where Mikayla worked as the general manager for years before moving into the bakery. "Working around coffee makes sense — it's what we know," said Jorel.
Fawkes Coffee was born in the summer of 2020. "It was during the quiet time in the pandemic when the world was quiet," said Mikayla.
"When everyone was picking up new hobbies, instead of learning how to make bread, we began roasting our own coffee," Jorel added.
When a friend approached them about opening up a new coffee shop in the Great West Saddlery Building, it was an opportunity they couldn't turn down. They even got married there four months ago, exchanging vows under a flowered arch in front of the window that looks onto the downtown street. And they're hoping to shift from running a pop-up to permanent location.
"We're committed to building something," Jorel said. "We want it to be special," Mikayla added.
They said they consider coffee secondary to fostering community. "We want to create a safe place for people to hang out and feel safe," Jorel said. "A place people can go to on a blind date. There aren't coffee shops open late downtown. We want to be that."
Currently, the pop-up sells cold brewed drinks, made with dairy-free milk and their signature roasted beans. The Pepins also sell four-packs of assorted vegan cake doughnuts and bags of Fawkes Coffee to take home.
Being vegan has turned out to be an advantage, as it helps them serve people with food sensitivities, keeps their menu small enough to ensure high quality, and gives the doughnuts a longer shelf life due to the lack of dairy and eggs. Some customers require a bit of persuasion, however.
"People get scared off by the vegan thing," Jorel said. "We had a lady say she didn't like vegan doughnuts, but we said, 'You haven't tried these vegan doughnuts.' Sure enough, she buys a box and then comes back an hour later to buy another one to send to her relatives in Toronto."
The pop-up is running Thursdays through Sundays for the rest of the summer, and then in the fall, the pair will begin focusing on the next steps. They are also talking to other coffee shops and venues about wholesaling their doughnuts and coffee.
They've been blown away by the community's response so far, selling more than four times what they projected when they started.
"I can't believe how many doughnuts I've made," Mikayla said.