— Photo by Brandon Anstey/The Beacon
As many small business owners know, opening a shop can be a gamble.
Alvin and Sonja Maloney decided to take that risk nearly four years ago, and now with a second business that opened last November, the couple’s gamble is paying off.
Located in Town Square in Gander, the Maloneys’ businesses, Ultra Clear Water and Jumping Bean Coffee, are the results of an ambition to be a part of the local business community and a desire to create sustainable employment.
“It was something we always talked about doing,” said Sonja of the opening of Ultra Clear Water nearly four years ago.
She was working part-time at the liquor store in Gander when they rolled the dice and became entrepreneurs, and it was an exciting time for the first-time business owners.
“If you want a job, create one. Well, let’s just say we created 10,” Sonja said with a laugh, referring to the hard work and dedication that went into growing the businesses.
Ultra Clear Water provides everything from high-end wine kits to fresh filtered water, and just about every accessory related to both. The business also makes a number of commercial deliveries to local businesses and organizations to help broaden its customer base, and to add diversity to the growing enterprise.
“She ran it for the first three years, and as the business grew, I decided that I would come in and give her a hand with it,” said Alvin, of his wife’s initial efforts.
“I was here for about a year, and we wanted to get something else on the go. So, that’s when we decided to do the Jumping Bean next door.”
That was in the spring, and by November, the distinct smell of roasted coffee was wafting through Gander.
It was a business venture that would lead the Maloneys down an exciting path that meshed with the couple’s mandate to provide a quality product that comes from close to home.
“We looked at a bunch of franchises, and we wanted to go with something that was local,” said Alvin. “Jumping Bean’s coffee is roasted right here in Newfoundland. Everything comes in here in whole bean, so we get it a day or two after it’s roasted. It can’t get any fresher than that for us.”
The Jumping Bean Coffee franchise was founded in 2005 by Jeff LeDrew of St. John’s.
“We try to buy as local as we can, and we try to keep the money in the province,” Alvin said. “Once the money leaves our province, it’s harder to get that money back here. Seems that we’re trying to create jobs locally; why not keep the money as local as possible?”
Opening the coffee shop would prove to be a labour of love for the young entrepreneurs. It was also in line with their goal to add diversity to the growing franchise and satisfy a local demand, said Sonja.
“Everything that Alvin said is what was most important to us in choosing, and we thought it would fit great in Gander because a lot of people were asking us to open up a shop when they saw us selling coffee at Ultra Clear,” she said.
“I feel like our business and the environment we’ve created is so unique, and it’s so great to see people enjoy it, so that makes us feel good as well.”
The Maloneys are enjoying a growing demand for their service at Jumping Bean Coffee, while running alongside the larger multi-national franchises in the area. The idea was to offer an intimate environment by leaving out the drive-thru feeling, and connecting with customers on a personal level, said Sonja.
“That’s the vision we had when it all came about. I wanted the customers to be able to feel like it was somewhere they could come hang out.”
Putting in the time and creating relationships with customers is an essential in the local business survival kit, said Alvin. Face-to-face interactions combined with connecting through social media is the method they use to set their business apart from local coffee chains.
“We’re not like absentee owners,” said Alvin.
“We are here all of the time. Every morning I come in, the first thing I do is post to our Facebook page. That way it gives our customers a chance to have a little chat with us and to let them know what we’re doing for that day, what kind of coffees we’ve got on, and what food is on. If they don’t like what’s on the menu that day, then it saves our customers’ time.”
It’s that kind of honesty and dedication to providing quality service that allows their business to survive and grow, said Sonja.
“I have actually written people through my personal Facebook profile on my days off just to let them know what kind of soup is on,” she said. “I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I wasn’t providing quality products and service to my customers. We are so appreciative of everyone that supports us, and we like to provide those people with the best products. That’s where you build up rapport with your customers.”
The couple aims to create a successful local business has been the direct result of the support of their local customers, and that’s the only way to do business, said Alvin.
“The support of locals is everything; it is your business,” he said.
“If you’re not a part of the local community, it’s going to be very hard for you to do anything with it. We love our customers, and that’s what makes it so much fun. We go in and everyone has a smile on their, and that feels great.”
Sonja echoed the same appreciation.
“We’re very happy here, and Gander has done nothing but good things for us.”