17 Apr Dream Achieved: Barney McKenzie
Bean Around the World: A Genuine Coffee House Experience Where Community is the Priority
In 1990 Barney McKenzie met his eventual business partner Pete Boëda. Together they built an iconic brand within the coffee culture in Vancouver. In the journey of developing Bean Around the World (BATW) McKenzie, who is now the sole owner, has strived to not only make great coffee, but to help strengthen community and provide a family environment for the BATW team.
Building the Business
When McKenzie was introduced to Boëda the coffee culture had not been developed in the city, “My sister said there is this guy opening up a little coffee bar. Starbucks hadn’t hit Vancouver yet. I didn’t even know what a coffee bar was,” explained McKenzie.
At the time he was running Caffé Barney on Granville, “I didn’t know where coffee came from, other than a plant. I was just selling it at the caffé.”
He was impressed with Boëda’s product and became his first wholesale customer.
Over the next few months they became friends, eventually opening their first Bean Around the World store together on 10th and Sasamat followed by another location right next to Caffé Barney.
They now have over 20 stores spread amongst BC and Alberta.
Learning from a Near Disaster
After being one of the most significant brands in their industry in Vancouver they nearly missed the opportunity to modernize their business to keep up with the changing demographic, “We got involved in other things. We had a ranch together and we kind of lost control of the business.”
“The third wave of coffee came. It was hipsters and microfoam. They really concentrated on the quality of the barista experience.”
“We were about roasting coffee.”
McKenzie and Boëda had to regroup and find a way to reinvent themselves. They re-branded the company, streamlined the retail and wholesale sides of the business and began focusing on selling their coffee online.
It was at this time they identified a need for stronger planning and team building, “We’ve worked with Carolyn on and off since 2010 and it’s been a good experience,” said McKenzie.
He sees planning and team building as a big part of his role and something they need to stay on top of, “Coming together as a team and communicating better, that is my job big time. We want to continue to work on this as we continue to grow so that everybody understands what everybody else is doing.”
Witnessing Bean Around the World stores become part of many different communities is something McKenzie is extremely proud of.
Seeing the people that gather at the legion in the evening come to socialize over coffee in morning as well as providing a safe and supportive environment for young people to get their start in the working world.
In 2008 Boëda and McKenzie discovered a way they could help build another community, this time a little farther away from home. On a trip to Guatemala to tour the plantations of their coffee producer Ricardo Zelaya they struck up a conversation about the community. Mc Kenzie found himself asking “What can we do to help you guys out?” Zelaya responded “We need a school.”
“So in 2008 we paid for the school to be built and have been paying the teachers salaries ever since. It has three rooms, bathrooms and a cooking area. Everyday about 70 kids go there from kindergarten to grade seven. Since we have opened the school over 700 students have learnt to read and write. This is something we are very proud of.”
“We just wanted to give back. At the time we didn’t tell anyone.”
A Family Business
Team building is not the only way BATW continues to keep the business feeling like family. Both McKenzie and Boëda’s sons are integral parts of the business.
Jeff Boëda is involved in the sourcing and roasting whereas Max McKenzie has taken on a bigger role on the business side. Both understand the industry and where it is headed.
By building community inside and out of his organization the Barney McKenzie feels confident they will continue to thrive in one of the most competitive industries in the city.