By Laura E. Young
SUDBURY – Jennifer Twiggs’ 20-plus years in the coffee business began with sewing, not roasting.
Twiggs’ grandmother Josephine Beaucage, of Nipissing First Nation, was a classic Indigenous artist who also taught arts and crafts, including the beading for full regalia, to Bands on Northern and remote reserves in Ontario. Beaucage taught her granddaughter to sew.
“I remember laying in bed, 15, 16 years old, going through every stitch of every little slipper that I was making, over and over in my head, perfecting it, thinking about it,” Twiggs said during a brief lull in the action of the opening of Twiggs fourth coffee franchise and their first Sudbury shop.
Twiggs celebrated its grand opening in Sudbury on October 26 at its location, 1332 Kingsway, across the road from the Sudbury Chapters bookstore. Twiggs is based in North Bay with two spots, and has a shop in Sturgeon Falls.
The expansion to Sudbury has been at least 10 years in the making, she says. In 2013, the company was eyeing the Kingsway location but it took another few years to secure the building. The Sudbury coffee shop, at 2,800 square feet, is the largest by almost 100 seats as their patio is big, she added.
The launch supported Sudbury’s Veteran Family Program. Jennifer McElheran is a veteran of the Canadian Forces. She and David Russell are partners in the Twiggs franchise in the latest edition to Sudbury’s diverse coffee market.
In 1979, Jennifer Twiggs moved west of North Bay and began selling her crafts in Kenora, then in Winnipeg. She hired people from various First Nations in Northwestern Ontario to do piece work.
“I invested and bought 2,000 rabbit furs. They must have had a buy one-thousand and get the second thousand half price,” she laughs. “I just know that we went to Thunder Bay and that we brought back 2,000 furs. When I do things I do them in a big way.”
Her husband worked in the paper industry and eventually they were moving on to Prince Albert where Twigg discovered homemade chocolate.
She turned to making and selling chocolates, recalling how the scale was about the same as the fur. She would work with 2,500 pounds of raw chocolate to produce six different chocolate bars, every September to December. “I did it all on my own. It was exhausting. I said I would never do chocolate again.”
Another move further west and they were now in Powell River, B.C. By chance one day she discovered a coffee shop that roasted its own beans. She fell in love with the taste and saw an opportunity. In 1994, the family returned to North Bay and opened their first Twiggs location in 1995.
With line-ups to the door in the fourth Twiggs location, Twigg mulled over the words she would use to inspire and ignite the entrepreneurial spirit in a speech she will make to young business people.
“For me it didn’t have very much to do with coffee. I loved the concept as soon as we came across an on-site coffee roasting business. I thought North Bay doesn’t have one so of course I saw that as the most incredible opportunity to do that.”
She is motivated by doing and by succeeding, she said.
“I loved whatever I did and I threw myself into it 1,000 per cent.”