Honeybeans – A Tale of Coffee and Friends
Welcome. This is the abbreviated story of Honeybeans Coffee, Tea & Treats in Saint Andrews, New Brunswick. As I sit writing this, Honeybeans, and all who have found themselves working there, have served thousands of people from all over the world over the last 14 years and counting.
It began as the dream of Angela Honey, from Camrose Alberta. First, let’s get the back story…
Angela grew up and went to Augustan University College in Camrose Alberta. She graduated with a Bsc. in Psychology. Shortly after this, as a member of Lutheran Church Canada, she joined a band that was being formed by the church to perform concerts at schools, churches and parks across Canada. That band was named “Unchained” and was under the umbrella of Crew Ministries. In this four-man band, touring Canada in a mini-van with a trailer (a lot more stories to tell there), she would meet her future husband, Matthew Honey…that would be me.
I was a soccer-playing, farm boy from Southern Ontario. Like Angela, I also auditioned and was asked to join the band. After a year of touring and recording an album, I attended Concordia University College of Alberta (1997-2000), earning a BA with a focus in Music Composition.
I would go on to be a technology consultant at Staples, while Angela became the Assistant Dean of Admissions at Concordia. I then transitioned to Xerox as a technician; Angela transitioned to Administrative Assistant to the president of the Alberta-British Columbia District of Lutheran Church Canada.
Now to where our coffee story truly begins. In January of 2007, both Angela and I, left our jobs in Edmonton to move to Banff for a year to work in the coffee industry. Both of us worked at the Second Cup coffee company. While we were employed, new owners took over the Banff location, giving Angela and me an interesting insight as to what new owners would potentially go through, and make notes about potential challenges.
It was also handy that there was a connection between St. Andrews and Banff via the Banff Springs hotel – a Fairmont hotel. We were able to do some initial investigation into St. Andrews by interrogating Banff Springs staff who had also worked at the Algonquin hotel (at the time, also a Fairmont hotel). Additionally, we made a trip out to St. Andrews in the dead of winter so that we would know what to expect.
After a year of learning the industry – everything from how to create a wide range of European coffee beverages to equipment and cafe layout efficiency, it was time to make the move. We packed our bags, made arrangements with Cappuccino King in Calgary to purchase an industrial espresso machine, and hit the road. We also met with a design company in Edmonton, Alberta called Graphos. Angela had worked with them while at Concordia and they had offered her their services if she ever got around to opening her coffee shop. Names and logo possibilities were presented and a decision was made. Honeybeans (a combination of our last name and coffee beans) Coffee, Tea & Treats with a carefree, whimsical logo would become our brand.
There were three potential locations that were considered for opening the cafe. Camrose, AB – Angela’s hometown, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON – near my hometown and St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, NB. St. Andrews was on the list because Angela had visited years before for a conference while she had been employed at Concordia – and she had fallen in love with the town. When all the cards were laid out – St. Andrews was the winner. With no family, friends or connections and a limited season and population, we were going on a wing and a prayer.
By late March of 2008, we had our belongings packed into storage and all we could afford to take with us packed into a hatchback and Angela’s father’s truck towing a small U-haul trailer, packed mostly with items for setting up the cafe. It meant we were going to be using cardboard boxes for furniture for a while. After half an hour of starting out on the road, we had to turn back…snowstorm was too strong. We tried again (successfully) the next day…but storms constantly tracked us as we drove from Alberta all the way to New Brunswick.
We arrived in New Brunswick in April and got to work. Suppliers would need to be sourced, construction completed and recipes would need to be perfected. We had looked at several locations in town but finally settled on 157a Water Street, owned at the time by Tom Jepsom of Timber Frame Construction out of Rothsay. Angela’s parents flew out to help us with renovating the former office space into a coffee shop…and also to retrieve their truck.
We had aimed to have the coffee shop open in May in order to take advantage of Paddlefest – the first big festival of the season, but we missed that date. While I could go into much more detail, I will keep this short by reporting that during the first weekend of June 2008, without any giant fanfare, we took a deep breath, said a prayer, and quietly opened the door.
From the very start, the coffee shop was busier than anticipated. For the first year, Angela and I ran the coffee shop by ourselves. We baked all of the scones, cookies, loaves and other treats, made the beverages, served the customers, performed repairs, swept the floors and did everything else an owner must do to keep their business professional and successful. On the financial side, Angela’s father (who was a CA) managed the accounts.
As we prepared to go into our second summer, we decided it was time to hire some staff to help out. Kaley Galloway of Sussex (who had been attending NBCC) was our very first employee. During our second year of operation, we were also delightfully awarded the Young Entrepreneur award through Enterprise Charlotte.
Every year the cafe got busier and busier and more and more staff were added – but always the challenge of balancing off the hours as business dropped in the fall. In 2011 Lauren Naish came to work for us. by 2014, we had promoted her to be our very first manager, assisting us greatly as the load became heavier. By the summer of 2018, there was a total of 12 staff employed at Honeybeans.
Tragedy struck in the fall of 2011 when Angela’s father passed away from cancer. This was compounded by the fact that we had to scramble, to try to figure out how the accounting was working, but by the grace of God, we made it through.
There were many regular customers…too many to recount. Tom Smith, the famous local potter was always in for his small coffee and a blueberry scone. Doug Naish was also a regular fixture at the cafe. He would eventually become mayor and Honeybeans would be known as his unofficial office. Michael and Brenda MacLean would stop by on their morning walks, the walking ladies, the men’s group, church bible studies, people orienting themselves upon arriving in town for the first time. There are so many that could be mentioned. People would drive down from St. John and Fredricton to go for coffee. People would gather with friends, play one of the board games in the cafe or quietly read. This was the crowning accomplishment for Angela and me – to create a place where people could get together, without being obligated to a whole meal. To create a sense of community. Where people could laugh, have fun…a safe place where friends were made.
In order to drive business…and have fun, various initiatives were explored over the years. For a few years, the Mugshot contest was held. Customers were encouraged to photograph their favourite mugs and then they were posted to Honeybeans’ Facebook page where people could vote on them. Eventually, that contest was wound down and Mad Matt’s Punderdome Challenge replaced it. Matt, known for his bad jokes, was gifted the game Punderdome from Sharon McGladdery. Angela, Matt and Lauren then went to work to adapt it into a game that could be played with all the customers in the cafe, with wacky prizes awarded and laughs to be had all around. The game got so much online traffic, that the inventors of the game actually found out and called us from New York to say thank you.
One other particularly fun initiative was Latte Idol. Based loosely…very loosely on the whole American Idol concept, customers would come up with their own latte flavour combination. Eventually, we would try them, and then narrow the field down to the three best tasting flavours. Customers then had to vote for their favourite by purchasing the latte. The latte that was purchased the most was the winner and a prize was awarded. The origin of the concept came from a unique latte that was developed at Honeybeans called the Mazelnut Latte. This latte came about when an NBCC student could not decide between a Maple Latte and a Hazelnut Latte, so we combined them. The latte became so popular that the student was immortalized on a poster advertising the Mazelnut latte.
There was also the time we decided to share one of our recipes. Two ladies were touring Canada, putting together a book on their favourite recipes. They asked to feature the oatcakes that we made. We agreed to do it this one time. It took awhile, but the book entitled Feast, was eventually published and we were even featured on the Marilyn Denis show…very humbling. It was nice to bring some exposure to New Brunswick.
There are many other stories that could be told. Though this scrolling screen could go on forever, it is questionable as to how many would have the stamina to reach the end. In 2015, tragedy struck again – Angela was diagnosed with cancer. While the cancer was eventually healed, Matt and Angela’s energy stores were dwindling from working 6 days a weeks, 12 hours a day and in 2018, an opportunity arose to pass the business along to its next caretakers.
Meetings were held, things were discussed and on November 1, 2018, Honeybeans’ new owners took the reins. That wonderful group of people were Kevin Simmonds, Lauren Naish and Ryan Wood. They continued to operate out of the same location for the following year and a half, however, they were then forced to move due to building fire regulations. Honeybeans closed for a month and reopened at 180 Water Street with a fresh new look and larger space. Ironically, this same location had originally been considered in 2008, when we had first looked at opening in St. Andrews, but was deemed to be too large a space for a small coffee shop just getting off the ground.
Fourteen years after Honeybeans quietly opened their door one early June morning, they are still happily serving up tea, lattes and marvellous treats to all who stop by, whether to pass the afternoon with a friend, play a game or two, or just lose themselves in a good book and a hot beverage.