Mountain firm named small business of the year
Jason Hofing didn’t start drinking coffee until he began working as driver for a courier company about six years ago.
Like many of us, his only relationship with the dark beverage was what he was handed at the drive-thru window.
Then one day he was making a delivery to a coffee roaster in Kingston who, when he saw the brand name cup sitting in the vehicle, invited Hofing inside to try some so called real coffee.
“I’ve been hooked ever since,” said the 36-year-old east Mountain resident, who along with his wife Rachel, started Red Hill Coffee Trade five years ago and last November opened E23, a coffee bar on Concession Streetand East 23rd.
Late last month the fair trade coffee maker was named the 2013 small business of the year at the annual Hamilton Chamber of Commerce outstanding business achievement awards gala.
“It was really nice to be recognized for the work that we had been doing because we really want to play a role in being a business that’s part of the Hamilton community” Hofing said.
Originally from Brampton, Hofing is a graduate of Redeemer University Collegeand spent a couple of years teaching Grade 6 at a Christian school in Pickering.
He noted his faith and desire to start a business that was socially responsible led him to set up a micro coffee bean roster (less than 2,500 pounds a year) featuring certified organic fair trade coffee where growers are guaranteed a minimum fair price for their crop.
“I was tired of delivering stuff that was going to end up in the landfill,” Hofing said. “Fair trade really spoke to me.”
Hofing said they decided to come to Hamilton because there was no micro roaster in the city and their three young daughters would be close to friends and family.
Working with Fair Trade Canada, Hofing said he imports coffee beans from a variety of countries such as Peru, Bolivia, Guatemala, Ethiopia and Sumatra.
“We only purchase fair trade coffee because we want to make sure we’re a business that’s making an impact not just locally, but around the globe,” Hofing said.
The beans are roasted each Wednesday at their shop on Lancing Avenue in the Red Hill BusinessPark and on Thursdays the coffee is delivered to about 20 cafes and restaurants in and around the Hamilton area including E23, which opened after Hofing and his father-in-law spent numerous hours renovating the space.
Hofing said the “sticker shock” of paying $2.25 for a 10 ounce cup of coffee is wearing off as his customers appreciate a quality cup of coffee.
The beans for each cup are ground on site at the time of purchase and the coffee is made by slowly running hot water over the grindings in a paper filter.
Hofing said he got to know Concession Street from making deliveries to Papa Leo’s restaurant.
He noted restaurant owner Leo Santos was always promoting the street to him and when space became available at Concession and East 23rd he went for it.
“It appealed to me,” he said. “Lots of pedestrian traffic and great neighbourhoods with families.”
Hofing said the coffee bar allows them to further promote their product and so far business at E23 and the roasting operation has been good enough for him to consider opening another coffee bar in the downtown area.
“We are planning for some future growth,” said Hofing, who is hoping the chamber award will help attract some investors to fuel that expansion.