“Don’t panic…We have bannock!”
Sharon Bond-Hogg knew she would franchise her business from day one, and now the requests are rolling in from all around British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and as far away as Ontario.
She and her husband, Darren, started serving bannock from a concession stand at Westside Daze in Westbank, BC, back in 2005. Sharon knew they were on to something when customers started lining up for the Indigenous treat that is a light, fluffy, fried dough made from local ingredients with delicious toppings like Saskatoon (berry) cream, cinnamon sugar and maple glaze.
“I didn’t start out thinking Kekuli Café would be an Indigenous restaurant,” Sharon said, “but the need and demand was there.”
More permanent concession stands at a soccer field in Lake Country and a car wash in Westbank soon followed. During that time, the couple also found ‘day’ jobs – Sharon at Starbucks and Darren at Tim Horton’s – with the focus of learning all they could about coffee, assembly lines, customer service, corporate standards and product consistency.
“We learned a new level of working,” Sharon explains, “it was intense training for both of us… there were times when we’d look at each other and ask ‘why are we doing this?’ but we always had a goal in sight that we were working toward.”
After four years of running concession stands and learning from industry heavyweights, Sharon and Darren opened their first Kekuli Café in Westbank in September 2009, followed by the Merritt location in August 2014. Both locations serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and also offer catering for special events and a venue for gatherings, workshops and meetings.
Kekuli Café is a step above fast food; food is served fast, but made with fresh, local ingredients. Although the cafés are in very different settings – the fast-paced shopping centre of Westbank and the quiet, walkable town of Merritt – both locations do an excellent job of welcoming the community with an Indigenous flair in décor, food quality and friendliness.
Sharon and Darren’s long list of accomplishments include a 2010 Indigenous Business of the Year Award, appearances on the Food Network’s “You Gotta Eat Here” and many other accolades from the Food and Beverage and Indigenous Business and Tourism industries. The future for Kekuli Café is bright and expanding, hopefully soon to a location near you!