Story by Christina Freudenthaler.
Photos by William Geier.
Jamie Parker, 26, and Mike Wenzlawe, 27, the co-founders of Calgary Heritage Roasting Company (CHRC) wanted to create something that is true to the city of Calgary, true to the province of Alberta and true to Western Canada.
So, what’s so special about CHRC? What sets them apart from other local coffee companies in Calgary? Parker and Wenzlawe’s take on coffee comes from the experience of roasting their own cup o’ joe as wildland firefighters.
It was a ritual that brought their crew of mentally and physically exhausted men together in camaraderie, everyday for an hour on top of a mountain.
So naturally, the idea for their venture evolved into a unique approach to business and to Calgary’s coffee culture, or lack-thereof.
“We’re really trying to change the coffee persona in Calgary,” explains Wenzlawe.
“In specialty coffee already there’s this perceived level of pretentiousness that exists, and coffee doesn’t need to be that way. You can be comfortable, inviting, simple and grass roots. Like our company, we really want to make that the driving force.”
Three differentiating factors that separate the CHRC boys from other coffee companies in Calgary are their roast to order program.
Valuing freshness above all when it comes to coffee, Parker and Wenzlawe really strive to get their product to their customers just days after the beans have been roasted.
Being described in the market as “your dad’s meat and potato cup of coffee.” Their brew is bold, but not bitter. It’s creamy, savoury, smoky and nutty with notes of dark chocolate.
The green bean movement is all about getting crafty in the community by selling green, unroasted coffee beans and teaching people how to roast their own coffee at home.
Ingenuity at its finest, this business idea is a true testament to Parker and Wenzlawe’s entrepreneurial spirit.
“Owning your own company allows you the right to be infinitely creative,” proclaims Wenzlawe.
Wenzlawe explains that regardless of creating a legacy or building something up that you can be proud of, it is an opportunity to put your spin, love, passion, sweat, blood and tears into it, and you don’t have to answer to anybody.
It has been a year since CHRC was incorporated and a lot has changed, but Parker and Wenzlawe’s core values and business goals haven’t.
Since CHRC is a reflection of what Parker and Wenzlawe want out of life, their company values reflect that: fun, community, collaboration and transparency.
Always checking themselves throughout this process, ultimately, Parker and Wenzlawe keep perspective and look at the bigger picture. “If we’re not having fun, then why are we doing it?” questions Parker.
Collaboration has always played a part in the CHRC boys’ lives. It started at Mount Royal University where Parker and Wenzlawe first met. As their respective university club presidents, they planned a ton of events that brought students together as a community.
“Collaboration has been really valuable for us, because as Calgary is growing, and as Calgary loves local business and entrepreneurs, it just allows everyone to elevate each other’s game,” comments Wenzlawe.
“It takes a village to raise a company, that’s why if you work together, opportunities will happen a lot faster,” adds Parker.
Collaboration goes hand in hand with community. CHRC hope to create a comfortable and inviting brand for people to identify and affiliate with. Bubbas Buds is a brand ambassador program where CHRC trades coffee for stories.
They want to create a community around their brand by connecting followers to their ambassadors’ stories: stories about urban and rural adventures in Alberta.
With brand ambassadors like Olympians Haley Daniels, solo water canoeist, and Cassie Hawrysh, skeleton, why not be apart of the CHRC community?
“We’re trying to help people achieve their dreams just as much as they are trying to help us achieve ours,” proclaims Parker.
The last core value: transparency, has only done incredible things for Parker and Wenzlawe, both personally and in business.
Wenzlawe mentioned that they took away a piece of advice from one of their business mentors that’s proven successful: “stab each other in the front.”
“That’s really important for us, because we work so closely together. It is really valuable for us to be able to level with each other on a constant basis,” Wenzlawe shares.
“Not only as business partners, but as best friends,” adds Parker.