Bridgehead charting Canadian expansion

OBJ Staff
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Local coffee retailer Bridgehead is again making plans to move outside the National Capital Region as it expands the wholesale element of its business.

Bridgehead managing director Tracey Clark inside the company's Preston Street facility when it was under construction in 2012.

Managing director Tracey Clark said the company hired a new employee in the past week to help take on wholesale food service clients in cities such as Belleville, Toronto and Montreal.

The company has opened 15 stores in Ottawa and a new roastery off Preston Street during its more than a decade of business. Over that time it’s built a reputation for fairly traded and organic coffees and teas.

Maintaining that position as it expands is one of Ms. Clark’s main concerns.

“Our aim at present is to make sure the standards are maintained,” she said in an interview Thursday. “There’s a challenge to focus on quality-oriented re-sellers or food service providers to … make sure it’s something that helps our brand and doesn’t hurt our brand in any way.”

She hopes to have the wholesale expansion plans up and running in the next few months and isn’t ruling out opening new retail locations in other cities down the road.

This isn’t Bridgehead’s first expansion outside Ottawa. The firm opened a new store in Montreal but had to close it in 2003 after a year of business.

Ms. Clark spoke Thursday morning at Eggs n’ Icons, a breakfast series co-hosted by OBJ and the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce.

Sidebar: Lessons learned from Montreal

Bridgehead decided to expand to Montreal after outdoor sporting goods retailer Mountain Equipment Co-Op approached it about opening a store at its Montreal location.

Ms. Clark wrote about the experience as part of her contribution to That’ll Never Work, a book about Canadian entrepreneurs released by accounting firm KPMG.

She said they didn’t particularly like the location because it was in the middle of an industrial park but still thought it was an opportunity to increase their number of customers.

The problem was there weren’t enough people coming into MEC’s store to make the business sustainable.

She called the closure a “$250,000 punch in the nose very early on in our journey” because they had operating losses and had to write off assets.

However she said she was fortunate to get out when she did.

“I knew I needed to close the store quickly,” she said.

Organizations: Mountain Equipment Co-Op, Ottawa Chamber of Commerce.Sidebar, KPMG

Geographic location: Montreal, Ottawa, Belleville Toronto Preston Street

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