Launched in 2012, Dispatch Coffee has since been recognized as a leader of Montreal’s coffee scene. But most people have had to taste its outstanding roasts at local independent cafés. Dispatch’s own main location—half café, half roastery—is somewhat hidden in Mile-Ex, the sort of “up and coming” neighbourhood that still needs a few years before it truly attracts outsiders. Dispatch also has a counter in the McConnell Engineering Building of McGill University, but it is not really a destination for simple coffee lovers.
That was all before the recent opening of Dispatch’s most ambitious project yet: a café in the vibrant heart of the city, right on Boulevard St-Laurent at the corner of Avenue Duluth. The cafe’s large space underwent a complete gutting, and if the renovation went past its deadline, the result is stunning. There are two sections, with an elevated seating area taking half the space and a large rectangular working island welcoming the customers. Large bay windows and minimalist decor make the cafe seem even bigger.
“We’ve designed this new store to have an area where our customers can ask us about anything—kind of like an info desk or Apple Genius Bar,” explains founder Chrissy Durcak, who started her business serving cold brew at small pop-ups and from a coffee truck. “We would like to connect our consumers to the people who grew their coffee and how the coffee supply chain works, as well as empowering them to brew our beans better at home.”
Another unique feature of the new cafe is its customized La Marzocco Linea PB espresso machine. “I wanted a Linea PB because it’s one of my favourite machines,” says Durcak. “We also wanted to communicate our values of transparency in the design of the new store: the traditional shell of the Linea is pretty ‘closed off,’ so I had my friend and longtime collaborator Jacques Gallant—a metalworker and jack of all trades—to produce glass sides that [reveal] what’s inside. It makes for a nice view while waiting for coffee and sparks conversation with our baristas about the machine.”
Dispatch’s regular customers will recognize the lineup of food offerings from Hof Kelsten (chocolatines and croissants), Dave Plant (muffins, cookies, canelés, savoury morning focaccias), Kat Romanow (of Fletchers, right across the street, who brings her cakes), and Le Kitchen (gluten-free and vegan bowls and salads).
The star of the new cafe is, obviously, the selection of Dispatch coffees prepared under the supervision of Chris Durning, the director of coffee who joined Durcak in 2014, when they started roasting. He also buys all the green coffee, does the quality control and education, and sets all of the roast profiles alongside Pat Latreille, Dispatch’s roaster.
The days when Durcak worked alone in her truck are long gone; now she has a team of more than 25 around her. “We’ve always been a company that has known where it was coming from, where it wanted to go, and had a lot to say and ideas to share,” says Durcak. “As we grow, we need a stronger communications strategy for our brand. ‘From a better place’ is our new anchoring tagline; it encapsulates who we are, our intention, our philosophy, and literally what we do. We use the word ‘better’ intentionally because we aren’t interested in being the best—we’re interested in making our industry better.
“I also like that, in French, ‘un meilleur point de depart’ produces imagery of transport,” she adds, “or something taking flight, which is an homage to our [name’s] inspiration from the transport industry. It also means a better start to your day, which is a cheesy nod to the classic Folgers tagline ‘the best part of wakin’ up.’ I’ve always been inspired by the advertising tactics of first-wave coffee, and seeing how we might infuse a traditional marketing approach with more ethical content to reach a wider audience.”
Michel Marois (@MMcafeLP) is a sportswriter for La Presse, and a Sprudge.com contributor based in Montreal. Read more Michel Marois on Sprudge.