In my last post, I mentioned that my favourite coffee shop in Cathedral is closing down at the end of this month. That coffee shop is of course, Roca Jacks. This makes me very sad indeed.
The coffee is the best in town in my humble opinion, but more than that, the place was my first Regina landmark – we hung around in there constantly in that painful two weeks back in 2011 where Emigration Plan 1 (Kave Haz) fell apart in front of me, and where Plan 2 (13th Ave Coffee House) eventually became an option. It was where I met Tamara, my first real friend in Canada, and through her, and the coffee shop itself, I’ve met so many others. I slept on her futon for 6 months, that used to live in Roca Jacks’ basement and it now adorns our spare room. When getting to grips with Regina’s layout, I looked the place up on Google street map, only to discover that the group of regulars who sit outside it, actually feature on the map!! I persuaded Bill at Roca Jacks to roast a special blend of coffee for 13th Ave Coffee that was unique to their business, and they are still using it now, even though I left a year ago. Bill was also one of the first people to employ my coffee consultancy services. I’ve chained both Yoshi the bike and Twyla the trike up outside it, and sat in there for hours with a laptop, a friend or three, or a sleeping Miranda. Miri has danced, shouted into a fan, climbed into the coffee roaster, petted Lorena’s Daschund (another “Mr Pickles”), drunk copious amounts of hot chocolate and even mastered the toilet in there.
And that is just me.
When they first announced their closure, I immediately dreamed up wild over-ambitious plans of buying the place via crowdfunding and keeping it going as a straight-forward coffee shop (and Bill would keep the roasting side of it). I was gonna do out the basement and make more seating and even sell books in there since the book shop is also closing. I rallied the troops – my friends, the loyal Twitterers of YQR, and friend’s girlfriend’s random acquaintances on Farcebook.
The response was unbelievable – I was not the only one wanting to save it, in fact there were a group already meeting and looking into setting up a cooperative. So many people wanting to keep an unhelpfully small, fairly scruffy coffee shop open, right on the edge of this neighbourhood with all its chipped mugs, sarcastic humour on the tip jar, its chain-smoking-tattooed-bearded-occasionally-unicycling clientele, the unfinished renovations and its secret hidden toilet that made up its “charms”. The place did have a few real difficulties – namely lack of parking (I never really saw that as an issue personally, because everyone I met in there was on foot or on a bike anyway), lack of seating space, no wifi and to my mind, lack of Big Windows through which to people watch. But it was loved by a great many people. It always made me smile to see people sitting outside it in the minus-ridiculous temperatures, while the posh new $tarbucks inside Safeway remains completely empty. My driving instructor actually summed it up rather nicely: “I’m usually in Roca Jacks. I know it’s the scuzziest place but it’s my local and the coffee is great!”
Sadly, my plans never materialised; although the business could have been available, the lease on the building was not, and a coffee shop without an actual shop isn’t much use. I am truly and utterly gutted by this, and I don’t think I’m alone in that feeling.
But, having set my heart on coffee-ing again, I’m going to set a little something up that is not quite so financially insane. Fittingly for Cathedral, it’s going to be a rather hipster-ish coffee cart towed by my tricycle, called Wheelie Good Coffee – that link will take you to more details over on my coffee blog. I’m hoping to get it ready in time to bring coffee to the street fair at the Cathedral Arts Festival.
I’ll be serving beans from Roca Jacks, of course. Because Coffee is important. In this case though, it is not just about the coffee; it’s about community. But it’s coffee that brings my bizarre little community together, and I will always love that.