Last year Marta Pozniakowski, a broker from Etobicoke, Ont., purchased a laundromat that had been in the neighbourhood for more than four decades. Recently, she opened her new real estate brokerage in that space, with an espresso bar at the front.
Why, during the worst pandemic the world has ever seen, would she have the urge to open an espresso bar?
“It may sound cliche but I created a vision board at the beginning of 2019 and on it I placed a photo of the entrance to the brokerage. On the left side I glued a picture of a coffee shop,” says Pozniakowski. She says there are two more reasons: the coffee shop industry is depression resistant and it has an attractive market. On average within the industry, she says, a small to medium-sized coffee shop can earn anywhere from $60,000 to $160,000 in personal income for the shop owner, which is a great side business.
The neighbourhood where she has set up shop is Alderwood, which is home to more than 12,000 residents. Her espresso bar serves traditional Italian espresso and espresso-based drinks. “We also offer locally produced and healthy snacks. It’s a place for a morning coffee and croissants, afternoon espresso and evening tea,” she says.
Pozniakowski started working with city officials on developing a proposal to create a Browns Line BIA, but as usual in 2020, COVID-19 got in the way. During the lockdown she met with many business owners and local residents, inviting them to work together using her new space and contacts.
She acquired Re/Max franchise rights in January and is now broker of record at Re/Max Equinox. She says her former broker, Jamie Johnston from Re/Max Condos Plus, helped her open her own shop.
She says getting the brokerage started during the lockdown was difficult. “In one day the whole world, my schedule, my kids schedule and business plans were completely thrown out of whack,” when the lockdown was announced, she says. The first couple of weeks, Pozniakowski says she felt like she had the situation under control until she realized home schooling the kids was turning into a full-time position. During the last few months she has felt “like a super woman,” juggling her new business venture and a busy home with active children “and still keeping myself healthy and fit and sane.”
In 2008, Pozniakowski started the Ekran Toronto Polish Film Festival, a not-for-profit annual event that is usually held at the Revue Cinema in Toronto. This year’s festival will continue with virtual screenings.
The coffee shop is called Espresso Bar Namaste. “Its name is inspired by the Hindi world namasté, which is a way to see and honour the reality of others,” she says. “One of the most common translations of namasté is ‘the divine light in me bows to the divine light within you.’”
The bar and brokerage have “had a terrific support from the community,” she says. “People were really looking forward for the espresso bar to open. I even received gifts and flowers congratulating me on the opening from other business owners.”
Ultimately, Pozniakowski thinks the espresso bar will also attract more business for her real estate brokerage. “I like the idea of having the community gathering and enjoying coffee and meeting each other. Espresso bars are the best way to meet your neighbours.” She hopes the espresso bar customers may eventually be interested in using the brokerage firm.