Creating Community One Cup At A Time
Sipp Chai is warm and inviting. Each customer who walks in the door is greeted with a cheery “hello”. The seating is comfortable, encouraging people to stay for a while. The chai is sweet and spicy, the coffee is flavourful, and the menu features locally sourced products. Owner Jas Anand, pictured above, right, with staff member Jamie Hari, has worked hard to create a welcoming atmosphere for both customers and staff.
“Community is a high value for me,” Jas says. “It’s all about relationships and I want my customers and my staff to feel like family.”
A Safe Place
Wayne Montgomery is a community inclusion worker with Communitas Supportive Care Society. Wayne says that Sipp Chai is the go-to place for him and for the people he serves.
“Jas and his staff really make us feel safe and welcome, which is very important,” Wayne says. “We never feel rushed and Jas really takes time to get to know you.”
Being part of the community means being open and accepting of people from all walks of life, no matter what their situation or abilities may look like.
An Inclusive Place
This value is exemplified by the fact that Sipp Chai is an inclusive employer. Jamie has known Jas for several years and they have become good friends. He loves Sipp Chai so much that he has introduced it to all his friends, including Jonathan who supported Jamie through Communitas for a season.
“Jamie invited me to Sipp Chai and we would visit from time to time,” Jonathan remembers. “He loved to hang out there and eventually did some volunteer work with Jas. It’s nice to see that he has now become an employee.”
Jamie has, in fact, been working at Sipp Chai since last summer. When Jamie lost his job at the movie theatre, Jas saw an opportunity to hire a hard-working, dedicated employee.
“Because of all the volunteer work we’ve done together, I’ve seen Jamie’s work ethic. I don’t see him as someone with diverse abilities, I see him as someone who thinks differently and who works hard, who is always willing, and who is fully capable of doing what is asked of him,” Jas explains. “When he became unemployed, I said, ‘Jamie, you belong in my life, come work for me’.”
Jamie jumped at the chance. “I love working here, it’s awesome,” he says. “I’m the second hardest working person here!”
He began slowly, selling donuts, or sanitizing the seating areas. Over time, he’s picked up several skills: he stocks shelves, works at the till, makes drinks, and helps in the kitchen. He has earned his Food Safe and Serving It Right certificates.
“He brings an energy and positive vibe to everything he does,” Jas says. “I always know I’ll get a lift from him.”
A Positive Energy
Customers attest to this as well. Dez manages the mall where Sipp Chai is located and refers to the tea shop as his second office.
“This place is unlike any other. Sipp Chai has really created a buzz,” he says. “Jamie is very friendly and lifts people’s spirits.”
Fr. Symeon, another faithful customer, agrees. He also spends time working from the tea shop and notes the familial atmosphere. He says Jamie is definitely a part of that.
“He’s very friendly and works well with customers,” Fr. Symeon says. “It’s not just about the coffee here, it’s about relationships, which is so important especially now when everyone feels so isolated.”
Jamie’s friend, Thor has known him for many years and the two worked at the movie theatre together. He says Jamie brings a joie de vivre to his work.
“You can see – even behind the masks – that people’s faces light up when they see Jamie. They know him and appreciate his positive energy,” Thor says.
Jamie is grateful for the opportunity to work in an environment where he is accepted and appreciated. He acknowledges that it is a communal effort that makes Sipp Chai special.
“I work with the best team ever,” he says, enthusiastically.
An Encouragement to Others
Jas is grateful that his dream of a tea shop where people feel like they’re at home has come to fruition. He welcomes diversity in both his customer base and his staff. He encourages other business owners who may be hesitant to hire diverse staff to reconsider.
“Let go of your prejudice,” he says, without hesitation. “Everyone has abilities. I have learned so much from Jamie and others on my staff team. I have learned new ways of thinking, of being. I have learned patience. This hasn’t just been good for Jamie, it’s been good for me.”