Some of the best winter memories are accompanied by a hot cup of coffee: chatting with friends around a fire; curling up and watching the snow fall; warming up after a hockey practice. A new business in Mount Brydges, O-Joe Coffee Bar, understands the importance of a quality cup of coffee and is bringing this philosophy back the community. Owner of O-Joe Coffee Bar and Retail, Joe Ornato, started his coffee roasting business with one simple idea: “passion”. Joe’s passion extends not just to his small, home roasted, batches of coffee, but also to his community, his employees, and his business as a whole.
The path to O-Joe was a winding one for Joe and his family. He started out his career as a mortgage broker and banker for twenty years. After moving back to the family farm in Mount Brydges, Joe
began to dabble in more creative and hands-on work, including farming and renovation. Then, after a coffee roasting trip to Toronto a little over four years ago, Joe says he was “hooked”. At first, he started roasting small batches in his home and sold them for a few hours on Saturdays, and through home deliveries; but, as Joe says himself, “three hours once a week wasn’t cutting it”. Joe’s high quality and fresh coffee, including being served less than two weeks from roasting, was getting a lot of positive attention.
As Joe considered expanding, he quickly set his sights on the empty building behind Platinum Key Realty in Mount Brydges; a building with historical significance as the old hardware store. Following renovations, O-Joe’s Coffee Bar and Retail Location officially opened on August 15th of this year. As well as coffee, O-Joe sells tea, specialty drinks, food, and coffee and tea accessories. “I wanted to create an old school gathering place for the community,” says Joe about his new business. Indeed, with an open layout, large farmhouse style tables, and cozy nooks for friends, O-Joe truly encapsulates this friendly community spirit. In terms of location, Joe says he was committed to opening in Mount Brydges. “Small towns are like a cross section of the population,” says Joe, “You can appeal to many different segments”.
When asked, Joe says what he loves most about running his own business is that he “gets to know people from all walks of life. I meet people over coffee and food, and we are just human-being-to-human-being having a conversation”. This passion for understanding others has driven Joe to only buy fair trade and environmentally friendly coffee beans; specifically, those grown by women farmers. As a follow through, O-Joe donates every month to the Women’s Rural Resource Centre in Strathroy, and hopes to include more community organizations in the coming years. Joe’s entrepreneurial spirit and passion for what he does earned O-Joe the Strathroy and District Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year Award for 2017. Joe says he was surprised and flattered by the award, and will continue to lead his business with values.
In the future, Joe’s dream for his business is quality, not quantity. “I want to grow but not expand,” says Joe, “I’m not interested in having 100 locations; I’m interested in growing in our community”. But demand for Joe’s coffee is so great, that many restaurants, cafes, and other service businesses around London and Middlesex are brewing his beans. One thing Joe says to keep your eye out for, however, is a coffee house at O-Joe every third Thursday night in the new year. This event will feature local artists and musicians, and will raise money for charitable organizations in the area.
Now for the most important question, what Joe’s personal favourite coffee blend is? The answer: “I love rotating between them,” says Joe, “I believe certain methods of drinking coffee are emotional and it depends on how I’m feeling”. This holiday season, why not go visit Joe and taste for yourself why O-Joe coffee is one the best in the County!
The cold weather’s here, but you can still bring the taste of summer to your table with preserves from Middlesex County producers
Is there anything better than the scent of fresh, warm muffins on a wintry morning? Well, yes — baking and eating muffins made with a generous helping of local preserves. Jam adds flavour, colour, moistness and texture to these muffins, plus most of the sweetness apart from a bit of local honey. And because this one ingredient plays so many roles, this recipe is as simple as they get.
For the preserves, I turned to Nancy Abra, who combines her passions for cooking and gardening in her business, From My Garden
, near Thorndale. With over 45 years of experience making preserves, she develops unique flavour combinations that showcase summer’s fruits. I caught up with Nancy at a local craft bazaar, where we chatted about what jam would work best in my muffins. She recommended her Triple Berry Spread and I’m glad I took her advice. The flavour is an exceptional celebration of strawberries, blueberries and raspberries, without the jarring sweetness of many jams.
These muffins are delicious warm from the oven, and stay flavourful and moist if stored covered for a day or two.
Triple Berry Jam Muffins
Jam is definitely the star of these muffins, adding colour, flavour, texture and sweetness, allowing the rest of the recipe to be quite simple. The only special addition is bran, which I always add to muffins. To my way of thinking, a muffin needs to be distinct from a cupcake; adding bran means these muffins don’t just taste good, but they work for you, too (ahem).
Makes 18 medium-large muffins
Pre-heat the oven to 400°F
Place 18 large paper liners in two muffin trays
Triple Berry Jam Muffins
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup wheat bran
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey
1 cup milk (I use 2%)
1 extra-large egg
1 cup From My Garden Triple Berry Spread (1 250-mL jar)
Combine the flour, bran, baking soda and baking powder in a small bowl, stir together and set aside.
Put the oil, honey, milk and egg in a large mixing bowl and whisk together until well incorporated. Stir in the jam.
Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir just until combined.
Evenly distribute the batter among the 18 lined muffin cups until 2/3 to 3/4 full. Bake in the pre-heated 400°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they’re risen, browned and a tester comes out clean. The tops may crack a little, but that just allows the beautiful jam to show through.
Cool the muffins in the tins on baking racks for about 5 minutes, then remove the muffins to continue cooling on the racks. Eat warm or at room temperature.
Two Middlesex agricultural businesses are making headlines by receiving the 2017 Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence. Recipients were Heeman's
of Thames Centre and Andrew Campbell (Fresh Air Farmer
) of Adelaide Metcalfe. The Agri-Food Innovation Award recognizes the innovative contributions of producers, processors, agri-food organizations and rural communities in Ontario. Heeman's innovative "row covers" to help prevent frost, and Campbell's "Dinner Starts Here" video series, gained regional and national attention for helping advance the field of agriculture. Heeman's and Campbell were presented with the awards at a ceremony early in December. Invest in Middlesex would like to congratulate both Heeman's and Campbell, and wish them continued success in "breaking new ground" for agriculture.
(Photo Credit - Ashleigh Beacham - Middlesex Junior Farmers)
A consortium of workforce, economic and business groups came together in order to develop a collaborative, efficient way to obtain reliable local labour market information from employers. The EmployerOne Survey is designed to get this information while respecting the employer's confidentiality and limited time. The EmployerOne survey allows employers, once a year, a chance to communicate their combined workforce needs to stakeholders, colleges, universities, school boards, employment service providers and government, who can provide solutions. "The EmployerOne Survey results will help drive programming in our schools. Trends resulting from the survey will guide our staff to provide relevant programming to meet current and future needs of our students and the workforce they will enter," Laura Elliott, Director of Education of the Thames Valley District School Board.
The EmployerOne Survey is open until January 31st, 2018.
Invest in Middlesex is thrilled to announce that we have been featured in the latest edition of Perspective Agriculture! The full two page article details Middlesex County's continued efforts to be at the forefront of agricultural and agricultural investments. This article features everything from Middlesex County's fertile land, to skilled workforce, location near urban centres, and continued investment in the sector. Want to learn more about Middlesex agriculture? The article is now available and can be read online HERE
(pages 22-23). Check it out today!
Do you have the next big business idea, but need help with funding? There are many grants and loans available for start ups and established businesses in Middlesex County. Listed below are ongoing grants and loans that can help you get your dream up and running.
Starter Company Plus: If you're starting, expanding or buying a small business, apply for training, mentoring and a grant through Starter Company Plus.
Summer Company: Summer Company is a program of the government of Ontario that helps young people between 15 and 29 years old start and run their own summer business by providing funding, advice and services.
Futurpreneur Financing and Mentoring: Futurpreneur Canada makes it easier for aspiring young business owners to secure financing. And we've partnered with the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) to extend our support to you even further.
Southwestern Ontario Development Fund: The Southwestern Ontario Development Fund gives money to businesses, municipalities and not-for-profit organizations for economic development in southwestern Ontario.
Young Entrepreneur Loan: As part of the Community Futures program, The Business Help Centre (CFDC) of Middlesex County provides term loans to small businesses owned by youth that have had difficulty finding financing elsewhere on reasonable terms.
Micro Loan - The Business Help Centre Middlesex
General Small Business Term Loans - The Business Help Centre Middlesex: As part of the Community Futures program, the Community Futures Development Corporation of Middlesex County provides term loans to small businesses that have had difficulty finding financing elsewhere on reasonable terms. Funded through FedDev Ontario, The Business Help Centre of Middlesex County provides term loans up to $250,000 to qualified businesses.
Enterprise Brant Business Loans: We'll show you the money. CFDCs can lend a business up to $250,000 to start, expand, or even reposition.
Equipment, renovations, inventory and working capital can all be financed by your local CFDC.
OCE Market Readiness Program: The program supports companies in both the Customer Creation (CC) and Company Building (CB) stages of the Customer Development Model, as defined by Lean Start-up principles.
Investing in Business Innovation: IBI provides mentorship, entrepreneurial support and financing to help new businesses grow and succeed
Impact Loan: IMPACT LOAN is a program delivered by Goodwill Industries with the help of our partners, the Small Business Centre and Libro Credit Union. We provide loans and business supports to people who are starting their own business in order to create financial stability for themselves and their families.
Newcomers - Futurpreneur: If you're new to Canada and don't have a credit history, Futurpreneur Canada wants to help you launch your business. We provide tailored support and eligibility criteria to reflect your new status in Canada.
BDC Xpansion Loan: The BDC Xpansion Loan is designed to help you realize projects that are key to your growth and success, without putting your cash flow at risk.
Canada Small Business Financing Program: Most start-ups and existing for-profit small businesses in Canada with gross revenues of $10 million or less are eligible to apply for loans under this program. Such businesses can be corporations, sole proprietors, partnerships or cooperatives
Industry Development Fund - OMDC: Ontario Media Development Corporation provides support to Ontario's cultural entrepreneurs by partnering with established trade and event organizations to offer initiatives, events and activities that stimulate the growth of the cultural media industries.