Creating experiences with coffee
570 Prince Street
Truro, Nova Scotia
Every small business in our community is the physical manifestation of someone’s dreams. Behind every beautiful store window display, someone spent hours planning and working to turn a dream into reality. Imagination is the ability of the mind to be creative and resourceful, two words that could not better describe Neena Brostowski, the owner of Brew Beans Cafe & Coffee House in Truro.
Neena loved science growing up and had even pursued post-secondary education at Dalhousie University, although realized it wasn’t her true passion in her second year of studies and decided to step back and head down a different career path.
Interestingly enough, creating a perfect cup of coffee is a science of its own. Each cup is the result of complex chemical and biological reactions that turn a plant into the steamy hot liquid miracle we call coffee. Maybe that’s why Neena was drawn to a career as a barista.
“I thought it would be fun to be a barista,” says Neena. “I thought, ‘I stepped away from what I thought I would be doing as a career, so why not do something that will make me happy’ and I went for it”. That is when her coffee shop dream started brewing.
She completed the Boulanger and Bakery Arts program through NSCC, and worked at a few different cafes to gain experience. Her first barista job was with Aroma Maya in North River where she was later hired again as their coffee roaster. She achieved her goal of working at Cortado Tasting Room in Bedford where she felt she could learn a lot about the world of coffee. Neena had the opportunity to learn about the science of coffee, steaming milk, and creating carefully crafted beverages. These experiences provided her with the knowledge to pursue her goal of opening her own shop.
Neena Brostowski, owner of Brew Beans in Truro, Nova Scotia.
Neena spent a year putting together a 40-page business plan while she was working. After months of pouring over the details and putting her dream into practical terms on paper, she was finally ready to make it a reality. She applied for financing, found a space she loved at 570 Prince Street, signed a lease, and then encountered her first roadblock on the way to opening.
“My business plan was rejected for financing,” Neena says. “I had some money saved from working, but not enough to do everything I wanted to open the business. I needed to figure out a plan because I had just signed myself into a lease.’”
Neena started renovations on her newly-leased future coffee shop while she continued searching for financial assistance. She was 22-years-of-age at the time, and lender after lender denied her application because she did not have any collateral and had no way to prove that someone her age was capable of such a grand project. Neena did not let this roadblock stop her; she continued on with the renovations, working with the rest of her savings, thriftiness and the help of family and friends. On November 4, 2019, Brew Beans opened its doors and Neena served her first cup of coffee at her business.
Walking into Brew Beans is like a breath of fresh air swirled with freshly brewed coffee and warm baked goods. The walls are bright and colourful, string lights hang overhead creating a cozy feeling, and the atmosphere has an inviting warmth, like a good cup of coffee.
When asked about the interior design Neena explains “I wanted it to be cheerful. Many urban cafes have a dark, black aesthetic, and we live in a place that experiences the effects of Winter the majority of the year. Who wants to walk into a dark atmosphere when it’s gray outside? I wanted something airy and happy, that puts a smile on your face when you come in.”
One of Brew Beans’ coolest features is that almost everything they make is vegan (or has a vegan option available). Brew Beans doesn’t charge extra for non-dairy alternatives like soy, almond or oat milk. Instead of labeling which baked goods are vegan, they indicate the ones that are not. It’s a brilliant marketing strategy and many visitors with dietary restrictions are pleasantly surprised by how many options there are.
“We kept getting so many questions about whether or not we offered vegan options, especially with COVID, when we opened back up we were getting many phone orders,” Neena explains. “We decided to make it almost all vegan, but just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean it can’t be delicious. It’s a fun challenge to create items that taste amazing but don’t use ingredients like dairy or eggs.”
Brew Beans carries a few staple items (all of which are vegan) including oatcakes, chocolate chip cookies, breakfast bars, cinnamon rolls, and brownies. They also create specialty items based on the season, customer suggestions and staff ideas.
Aroma Maya is their main coffee supplier, since Neena has such a strong connection to the brand and loved working for them. They use a small-batch, slow roasting process to create coffee that’s smooth, sweet and full-bodied. Brew Beans also occasionally brings in new coffees from feature roasters in other provinces or countries. All of their teas are from World Tea House located in Halifax.
When Neena was deciding on where to open her business, Downtown Truro was at the top of her list due to the growing number of unique small businesses. “Truro is growing,” says Neena. “There’s a positive energy around the town. People are choosing to stay in Truro after high school, or they’re choosing to come back later in life. I see this area as a huge opportunity for growth, it’s exciting.”
Neena’s advice to anyone interested in starting their own small business is to work hard.
“There will be many hurdles but keep going, for as long as you can, no matter how tough it gets. It’s difficult. I wasn’t taken seriously at all at 22 but I love coffee and I love my customers, and I’m determined to make it work,” says Neena. “You have to prove yourself, and when you come up against an obstacle, you have to say, ‘ok, that’s not going to work, what’s my next step?’ If you keep going there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Neena is thrilled that her dream has managed to continue through the first year and a half that has included an ongoing global pandemic. “When I look at success, I consider: Is the business good? Is it well-received? Are the staff happy? Am I happy?” Neena says.
Brew Beans has received phenomenal feedback from customers since it opened. The coffee shop has stellar ratings on Google, TripAdvisor and Facebook.
“Customers are elated when they come and often rave about the product and service,” says Neena, “come in today and be part of my dream!”