Photos by Matty Flader / Photo Reporter

King William Street is known throughout Hamilton for housing some of the finest restaurants the city has to offer. While the two blocks are great for a night out on the town, there is a lack of grab and go items. Husband and wife duo, Jason and Rachel Hofing, found what it would take to fill this gap. This led to the development of their own coffee/cafe brand. 

Before creating one of Hamilton’s premiere coffee roasters, Jason and Rachel lived in Oshawa. While Jason was working full-time at FedEx, Rachel stayed at home to raise their two small children. 

“What bothered me was how far away we were from our family and friends. We were on the wrong side of Toronto . . . it came down to quality of life. I wanted our kids to grow up with their cousins and grandparents, for us to feel connected because we are really close with our friends. How do I get my family into the Hamilton area? I saw that a transfer wasn’t happening [but] one of my pickups and deliveries was a coffee roaster in Kingston. So that’s where I started to understand the coffee,” said Jason.

Eventually, Rachel and Jason’s trains of thought intersected. 

“The timing was really interesting . . . Around the same time, I’m in Oshawa with the babies and Oshawa Centre would turn their parking lot into a farmers’ market a few days a week. We started caring a lot as a family about “If I’m going to buy vegetables, why wouldn’t I just get it from the farmers at the farmer’s market.”  If we’re going to get coffee, why don’t we get it from somewhere where they haven’t sprayed it and people got paid. What can we do that is wholesome, ethical and matters for quality of life for everyone — not just people we can see but right down to my kids — feeding them the right things,” said Rachel.

Jason and Rachel’s roasting brand began in 2008 as Red Hill Coffee Trade, bringing locally roasted, fair-trade, organic beans to cafés and restaurants across Hamilton. Through participation in monthly art crawls and festivals, they were able to develop relationships throughout the community. As a result, the Hofings were able open up a coffee bar in the Hamilton Farmers Market (35 York Blvd.) under a new name, Relay Coffee Roasters.

While the coffee bar was servicing the downtown area, the duo launched a larger coffee shop a couple years later on Concession Street that serviced the Hamilton mountain. Jason kept asking Rachel what was next for Relay, which ultimately led to the conception of their third location. 

In comparison to the other establishments on King William Street, Jason and Rachel felt that they could use their third location to create a more casual setting, one that would be welcoming at all times of the day.

Nearly double the size of their previous location, the newest cafe has a large kitchen for salads and sandwiches, made on-site, as well as a coffee roaster tucked away in a small room towards the back of the space. To the Hofings, this space is more than just a coffee shop: it is an experience.

“A compliment I just received from someone was that the environment that has been created here has reduced some of their stress and anxiety because they know that they are cared about and they are encouraged to do their best and it’s not just in their job,” said Jason.

While all of their coffee has come from their roastery on the mountain, Jason’s hope is that he can start roasting small batches of coffee within the King William space as an exclusive.  

Relay Coffee Roasters works with fair-trade and organic certified coffee, using coffee beans from approximately six different origins. Each different region gives the coffee a different flavour.

“We look for trusted companies and importers that share the same values that we do,” said Jason. 

The process starts off with roasting green coffee beans at 400 degrees fahrenheit. Colours will change from green, yellow, crimson and finally, to brown. At the end of the cycle, the beans are put into an agitator to cool them as quickly as possible and prevent further roasting.

The Hofings have created a warm, inviting space for late night study sessions or small get togethers with friends. 

“I think with McMaster, Relay can be a little bit of an escape or that it’s a sense of home,” said Jason. “We want to meet them, we want them to feel great about choosing McMaster and Hamilton and we’d love to get to know them.” 

 

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Photo C/O @artesano_canada

Ever since Hina Glazer and Oren Harad moved to Canada from Mexico in 2010, they wanted to find a way to link the two countries. Inspired by how Canadians love to connect with other cultures and travel to Mexico, they wanted to show Canadians the beauty of Mexico beyond the tourist resorts.

They started Artesano Canada, an enamelware and folk art business that puts Mexico’s art in the spotlight.

The name comes from the Spanish word for artisan, but there is another hidden meaning. Glazer and Harad liked that arte means art and sano means healthy, suggesting that the colourful hand-painted skulls and black-and-white enamelware that they sell are good for their customers.

The couple began selling their goods after a 2016 trip to Oaxaca, their favourite region in Mexico. Along with their three kids, they met several talented artisans whose crafts has been passed down to them from their parents and grandparents.

“So the traditional art is art that's been made for obviously many years… [and] most of the artists are born into it… We went to a resort a few months ago and… we saw many of the skulls… painted like American sports teams. So that's the difference. I could cry right now when I tell you this. And there were artisans making them but they were not making their grandparents’ art,” Glazer explained.

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For this reason, Artesano supports traditional Mexican art. The business currently works with two families of artisans in Mexico, with whom Glazer has a personal relationship with. They are a fair trade company as Glazer is strongly against taking advantage of others. She pays the artisans their desired price because she believes only they know what the products are worth.

Last November, Artesano participated in in Ontario Public Interest Research Group’s Fair Trade Fest at McMaster University Student Centre Atrium. They sell their products both online and in markets across the greater Hamilton area. Their online store ships worldwide and they have a shop at St. Jacob’s Market in Waterloo.

Glazer and Harad intended to run the business on the side, but their business grew and Glazer now operates Artesano full-time. Prior, Glazer was a self-employed translator, but has never owned a business. While the process has been hard for her and her family, it has also been very rewarding and led to several new skills.

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“[I]t's hard to try to put your name out there and your brand… [E]ven if people respond, it's not an easy journey but you learn so much about yourself. It's amazing… [Y]ou used to do one part of the business… and that's it. Nowadays we start these small businesses. We're not social media experts and we're not sales experts… but we do all that… So it's a challenge,” Glazer said.

Glazer credits her fellow vendors and entrepreneurs in Hamilton for making the process easier. The warm entrepreneur community provides tips and a support system for her and her family as they juggle life and work.

The city has also been very supportive of Glazer and Harad. Last November their van, filled with $5000 of product, was stolen in downtown Hamilton. While the goods were not recovered, they still hear kind words from Hamiltonians to this day. They have also found support in their neighbourhood, with kind neighbours who will look after their children if needed.

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The city’s sense of community, thriving art scene and rapid growth make it a wonderful fit for Artesano. As the business grows, Glazer aims to continuing travelling to Mexico and meeting other artists. She wants Artesano’s products to connect people around the world to the rich culture of Mexico.

“I really like the ceramic skulls because they represent so much about Mexico… Day of the Dead is the most important celebration of the year and skulls are such an important part of the Mexican culture… I would love to see us help people learn more about Day of the Dead which we try to do in our social media. And you know Mexican traditions in general, just… extend this knowledge to everyone who's interested,” Glazer explained.

The business is also a way for Glazer to keep her children connected to Mexico, even as they grow up in Canada. She considers Artesano a family business and would love to see it passed down to her children. Like the artisans they collaborate with, Artesano might be around for generations to come.

 

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