Skip to content

Co-op coffee shop brewing along nicely

Kitchen manager A. J. Brooks, left, Sooke Community Investment Cooperative president Wendy O’Connor, and general manager Nathan Tenney are brimming with enthusiasm for Cafe Vosino’s future. (Rick Stiebel/News Staff)

Cafe Vosino’s recipe for success is percolating, thanks to the support it’s brewed in a cooperative community.

It’s been seven months since the coffee shop formerly known as Stick in the Mud officially assumed its new moniker, said Wendy O’Connor, president of the board of the Sooke Community Investment Cooperative, which incorporated on June 19, 2023, to purchase the business from David Evans.

“It was just over a year ago that we heard that David was selling,” O’Connor noted. “I’m simply amazing looking back at what started as a conversation over a coffee with a couple of friends at the Stick has turned out.”

O’Connor said an effort to keep the popular cafe open quickly percolated throughout the loyal clientele and community, resulting in more than $100,00 raised in donations and co-op memberships within a few months. The co-op now has 335 members and continues to grow.

“The community really came together quickly to make this happen,” she said. “It’s a great example of what can happen when a community pulls together.”

O’Connor shared a conversation she overheard recently in the grocery store between two women who were discussing coffee options when one of them mentioned Cafe Vosino. “The other one asked if it was the place that used to be called Stick in the Mud that the community took over, and I thought that was really cool,” O’Connor recalled with a smile.

The name change was predicated by Evans retaining Stick in the Mud for the roastarium he operates next door.

“We decided to call it Cafe Vosino as a tip of the cap to David’s name for his Americanos,” O’Connor explained. “Most people from here recognize it as Sooke’s first postal code.”

Nathan Tenney, who took over as general manager when the co-op was formed, said the transition to Cafe Vosino was “extremely smooth” because they could retain 10 of the 13 staff members.

“Almost all of our staff live in Sooke,” he noted. “That also preserved the sense of community with our customers because the staff know their names and favourite drinks.

A. J. Brooks, who started as a barista seven years ago, is the kitchen manager at Cafe Vosino.

“When we found out the Stick was closing, we were gutted,” she said. “It’s been just incredible to see so many regulars come together to form the co-op. For a lot of our staff and customers, this place feels like home.”

While Tenney said their goal is to create a more positive experience in the restaurant business where staff are encouraged to be themselves, another primary focus is supporting local community initiatives and organizations.

For example, he cited a one percent donation from sales of their Beach Latte to the Surfrider Foundation, which conducts monthly cleanups of beaches.

O’Connor added that Anita Wood, a member of the co-op’s board, organizes the display of works by local artists on the cafe wall.

“We’ve gotten great feedback from our customers and helped sell a few pieces as well,” O’Connor said.

Internationally acclaimed artist Deryk Houston will present his art at a show on May 2.

O’Connor believes more community engagement and events like art shows will lead to more people joining the co-op or discovering how great the food and beverages are.

“We’re always looking for more people,” she said. “It’s surprising how many people don’t know where we are, tucked away across from the Legion.”

Financial details of the sale will be disclosed at the co-op’s first annual general meeting at the end of May.

Visit cafevosino. ca or cafevosino @instagram for more information.

ALSO READ: Community unites to save beloved Sooke coffee shop

About the Author: Rick Stiebel

Read more