The Ice District isn’t downtown for Drew McIntosh, founder of The Grizzlar Coffee and Records Corp. To him, downtown is the many and varied community groups trying to help each other and build something independent from the huge corporate dollars that are flooding the city’s streets.
As of today, the punk coffee shop—which opened late last year—is partnering with two of these groups that fit in well with its ethos.
“This is where all our money goes, where all our community aspiration goes? To a hockey arena and a fuckin’ BPs with chandeliers? I really feel it’s important for us to start working independently and creating the community we want to live in,” McIntosh says.
The purveyor of ethically-traded coffee sits relatively near Boyle Street Community Services, and is beginning the Fuelling Boyle Street program, which is asking Edmontonians to donate $125 through The Grizzlar’s website to purchase the homeless agency enough coffee for its community members for one day out of a year.
There are 365 spots open on the website, and people who do donate will receive a coffee tasting event as a thank you. The campaign will be ongoing until every day is accounted for.
“Community isn’t like ‘you owe me one.’ Community is like ‘what can we build here,’” he says. “We’re just trying to make sure the future is a little more egalitarian.”
When McIntosh first began talking with Boyle Street, the agency was going through around 24 kilograms of coffee each month. That didn’t seem like too much, even for a fledgling business—but cold weather, and the popularity of the coffee, has seen that demand get closer to 100 kilograms.
“We had this realization where we would either have to quit the program or get creative and find a way,” McIntosh says.
The business already does 20 kilograms per week in coffee donations to Boyle Street.
“We sell good quality coffee, and there’s a morality to it. At the same time, [we need to] turn around and make sure nobody is forced to beg for it on the street,” McIntosh says.
For the second of these projects, McIntosh chose “No Pods, No Masters”—a riff on an old anarchist slogan—for a title. It’s a partnership with Champ City Courier Collective, an independent cooperative of bike messengers.
The program offers 15 ‘slots’ that allow people in, say, office buildings to apply for recurring Monday deliveries of coffee in different denominations—two or four 340-gram bags, or one or two kilogram bag or bags—through the couriers.
Champ City Courier Collective is also about to open a SkipTheDishes-esque platform where locals can order from Edmonton businesses.
“Hopefully, by making some regular, recurring business, it’ll help them to have something to stand on,” McIntosh says. “Then other independent businesses will be able to have an independent delivery service—it’s an ecosystem.”
McIntosh wanted to start these projects just as The Grizzlar was opening its doors, but the rigours of starting a new business kind of put them on the back burner.
“This is how we’re going to make the downtown we want to live in,” McIntosh says. “This isn’t the Ice District to me; this is my neighbourhood.”
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