It wasn’t long before the former owner of the Coffee Culture Café and Eatery in Brandon saw the ambition in one of her new employees.
Lori Versavel, who opened the local café at 510 1st Street with her husband Pat in 2013, was partway through her second year of operation when she hired Ashwini Dave. In November of 2014, Dave and her now-fiancé Akash Patel approached Versavel about purchasing the establishment.
“Basically, when he got here, he asked if I wanted to sell and I said, ‘No. I just got opened,’” Versavel remembers with a laugh. “They constantly kept asking, ‘When are you ready?’ As I said to the customers, any business owner able to sell their business to someone who loves it as much as I do and have as much passion for it, you have to be the luckiest person in the world. When they came back to us (earlier this year) we figured this is the time. I have to admit that I’m tired. They have lots of energy and it’s time.”
Dave and Patel took over Coffee Culture on Oct. 1. It was the completion of a 10-month process that Dave had little patience for due to her longing for the opportunity.
“We were so excited. We couldn’t wait until we took over,” she told the Westman Journal on Monday afternoon. “With the paperwork and the lawyers, it takes the time it takes, but it’s like our dream has come true after the last four years.”
The couple moved to Brandon in 2014 after living for a short period in Toronto, Ont. where they studied business management. Both Patel and Dave are originally from India. Besides earning an education in the field of business, Patel also has experience. He owned an electrical component manufacturing company back in India.
Considering the success established by the Versavels since opening five years ago, neither of the new owners plan on making many changes to the operation for the time being.
“Since we moved to Brandon, Ashwini saw the business grow day by day over the last four years while she worked there,” said Patel, who is also a journeyman electrician at Maple Leaf Foods in Brandon. “She saw how much the people loved the coffee. It only happened because of Ashwini.”
For Versavel, the sale of Coffee Culture represents a second retirement. Four years before opening the café, she had ended her career as an accountant.
“I just saw the need for this type of business in Brandon and I love people and coffee,” she said about her return to work in 2013. “I was looking for something else to do and that really attracted me. That whole franchise, the way they put it together; the food, the coffee, the look of it; I could see it was the kind of place that I would like to go with my friends to.”
Veresavel still has a hand in the business, for now, helping Patel and Dave get comfortable with their new role as café owners.
“Right now, it’s not a matter of them needing me. It’s just a matter of having someone there to reassure them,” she said. “They are doing very well. I’ll be there to help as long as they feel they need me. Plus, I score a free coffee once in a while.”
Although she said this retirement was a permanent one, Versavel did backtrack a little.
“I hope there will be nothing else, but you never know,” she said. “I think this is my retirement, but I thought I had retired the first time too.”
Meanwhile, Dave and Patel are glad their ambitious drive to purchase the establishment paid off. They are already comfortable with the business and appreciate both their employees and the regular customers who stream into the café.
They also appreciate the support the Versavels have provided them.
“Lori and Pat are always helpful in all aspects of the business and the staff has accepted us with a good warm welcome,” Patel said. “As far as the regular customers – the seniors and the office people – they won’t see any difference here because the quality that has been established is really good.”