Federal funding helps Yellowknife coffee shop open 4th location

Rami Kassem, owner and manager of Javaroma Gourmet Coffee and Tea, will be opening his fourth location in the new year. The expansion is a result of federal funding through CanNor. (Julie Plourde/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Rami Kassem, owner and manager of Javaroma Gourmet Coffee and Tea, will be opening his fourth location in the new year. The expansion is a result of federal funding through CanNor. (Julie Plourde/Radio-Canada - image credit)

A familiar coffee shop will soon open its doors in the YK Centre Mall.

With the help of federal funding, Javaroma Gourmet Coffee and Tea will open its fourth Yellowknife location where Gourmet Cup formerly operated.

The coffee shop's expansion is the result of funding through the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor).

The funding program, abbreviated to IDEANorth, aims to make "foundational investments" to help diversify the northern economy.

Rami Kassem, owner and manager of Javaroma, heard about the opportunity through a customer. Kassem said about 45 days after submitting the application, his project was approved and he was offered $86,000 to support the new operation.

Kassem is also contributing $86,000 of his own money.

The expression of interest for the funding is open until Nov. 30.

CanNor and Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal said that "it's open to any business to apply, to create jobs and grow the economy."

Julie Plourde/Radio-Canada
Julie Plourde/Radio-Canada

When Kassem moved to Yellowknife, his intention was always to open a business.

He immigrated to Canada as a Lebanese refugee in 2000, living first in Montreal where he worked at a factory, then in Edmonton where he drove an airport shuttle. That's where Kassem said he learnt about "the beauty of the North and the people of the North and the business opportunities."

"So I said that's the place for me," Kassem said. "I didn't want to come to Yellowknife to try it, I came here to move."

In Yellowknife, Kassem worked his first few years as a taxi driver before taking over Javaroma from its previous owner in 2009.

In 2012 the cafe expanded to the Yellowknife airport.

In 2015 it opened its second location in the airport. Kassem said he expects the newest location to open in the YK Centre between January and February 2023.

Asked about labour shortages in the territory, Kassem said that between local and foreign workers, Javaroma can generally fill its staffing requirements.

Julie Plourde/Radio-Canada
Julie Plourde/Radio-Canada

Vandal, who is in Yellowknife Monday to meet with the territorial government make further announcements on housing investments and travel to Behchokǫ̀, said the announcement follows the federal government's fall economic statement. That document was released last week.

Vandal said that a "key pillar" in the plan is "to make sure we're there for Canadians as the global economy slows down."

He said that includes supporting small businesses like Javaroma and its workers.