A First Nation in Campbell River is brewing something special as it gets ready to open the doors to one of the first Indigenous-operated licensed Starbucks store in Canada.
On Friday, Jan. 19, Starbucks Canada and members of the We Wai Kai First Nation will come together to celebrate the grand opening of a new Starbucks location, “the first to be licensed and operated by the Nation,” reads a statement to CHEK News.
The store is located at 101-125 Brant Dr., in Quinsam Crossing near the Shell gas station off Highway 19, and its opening comes less than a year after ground was broken.
In March 2023, a traditional blessing and ground-breaking ceremony was held to commemorate the start of construction, with representatives of Starbucks and the Nation, including Chief Councillor Ronnie Chickite, in attendance.
At the time, Chief Chickite said the Nation was “a proud leader in providing progressive economic, cultural and social services” for members, residents and businesses.
“Economic development is a key pillar of our strategic plan and an important component as we move towards treaty,” he said. “It is through partnerships, like this one with Starbucks Canada, that will support our goal of self-reliance.”
The Nation has about 1,200 members and five designated reserve lands, including Quinsam, which together cover 1,693 acres. Located within Campbell River’s city limits, Quinsam is home to about 60 per cent of the Nation’s houses.
Opening ceremony to show off new Starbucks, local art
We Wai Kai focused on hiring locally, and the store’s design reflects the origins and pride of the Nation, including materials and local art, which the public will be able to see for themselves during an opening ceremony happening Friday.
The event, scheduled for 10 a.m. on opening day, will encompass the Nation’s traditions, including an Eagle Down Blessing Ceremony and a Ladies’ Dance, as well as speeches by Chiefs, dignitaries and staff from Starbucks Canada. Community members are also welcome to attend.
“Starbucks and the We Wai Kai Nation will also unveil the store’s custom, hand-painted mural by local artist Jessica Chickite,” the coffee giant said in the statement Tuesday.
“The mural honours the Nation’s history and culture. Weaving together the iconic Starbucks siren with Indigenous motifs, Chickite’s artwork also celebrates how Starbucks and the We Wai Kai Nation have come together as one proud community.”
The store was originally expected to open last fall.
Now, Starbucks says more than 20 “green apron baristas” have been hired for the store, which measures 1,700 square feet and offers customers a drive-thru and a mobile order option.
The space will also help people “connect over coffee,” according to a Starbucks official.
“Together with We Wai Kai Nation, our shared vision has now become a shared reality,” said Shannon Leisz, vice president of store development for Starbucks Canada, last March.
“This incredible moment marks the beginning of what is possible for Starbucks and First Nation communities in Canada as we continue to work side by side.”
Starbucks has one other location in Campbell River at Mariner Square.
Elsewhere in Canada, an Indigenous-operated Starbucks opened on the Muskeg Lake Urban Reserve in Saskatoon, Sask., last year.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story said the new Starbucks in Campbell River was the first location to be Indigenous-operated in Canada. That was to be true when ground was broken in March 2023, but an Indigenous-operated Starbucks opened in Saskatoon, Sask., later that year, prior to the Campbell River store opening.