PODCAST: Downtown café Dreams of Beans becomes a social enterprise

Owners eliminate tipping, commit to a living wage of $25 per hour instead
Andrew MacGregor and Aurynn Jacobs Parkin, the new owners of Dreams of Beans Café. (Photo courtesy of Parkin)

Dreams of Beans Café in downtown Peterborough has new owners, and they’re pledging to run their business as a social enterprise — including paying their employees a living wage of $25 per hour.

“If a business is running and is being successful then they should be able to pay their staff adequately,” said Aurynn Jacobs Parkin, who recently bought the business with Andrew MacGregor.

Parkin and MacGregor have instituted another change: There is no tipping at Dreams of Beans anymore. “I don’t think that it’s up to the patrons to be able to dictate whether or not you go home satisfied with how much you got paid,” Parkin said. So the business partners eliminated tipping, shifting to the living wage instead. Parkin said they’ve raised prices in the café a little bit, and they’re using that extra revenue to afford the living wage.

To learn more about Parkin’s and MacGregor’s vision for Dreams of Beans, listen to Eddy Sweeney’s report in the podcast player above. (Or find it in your favourite podcast app by searching for Peterborough Currents.)

Sweeney is a new journalist working at Trent Radio (92.7 FM). Peterborough Currents has partnered with Trent Radio to offer support and mentorship as the broadcaster produces news for the first time. We’ll be sharing some of Eddy’s stories on our podcast feed and website. Let us know what you think!

Episode Transcript

Will Pearson 0:04
Hey there, welcome to the Peterborough Currents podcast. My name is Will. I’m the editor and publisher of Currents. I’m sorry it’s been so long since we last posted on the podcast feed. We’ve missed doing it! The delay has mostly just been because we haven’t had the financial resources to put into podcasting over the last year or so. But I’m pleased to share that through a new partnership with Trent Radio, we’re going to be using the podcast feed a little bit more going forward and using it to share more local journalism with you. So here’s what’s happening. Trent Radio received funding to hire a local journalist through the federal government’s Local Journalism Initiative. His name is Eddy Sweeney. He’s already hard at work at Trent Radio producing local journalism, which you can tune into I should say by going to 92.7 FM. And Trent Radio has also partnered with us, Peterborough Currents. We’re going to be offering Eddy support and mentorship as he goes about his work. And we’re also going to be sharing some of his stories in our podcast feed and on our website. I’m really excited about this. It means there’s one more full time journalist working in Peterborough, which is great for our community. It means more stories are going to be surfaced. And it means we can get back to audio journalism, which is something that we love. It’s the medium that Peterborough Currents got started with way back in 2017. So that’s great. It’s just great news, more journalism for you. But I don’t want to waste too much time talking about it. Let’s get straight into a story from Eddy. It’s about the new owners of Dreams of Beans cafe and Hunter Street and their vision to run the cafe as a social enterprise.

Eddy Sweeney 1:36
After closing earlier this year, Dreams of Beans, a popular cafe located on Hunter Street West in downtown Peterborough has reopened under new management. Both prominent community members and first time business owners, Aurynn Jacobs Parkin and Andrew MacGregor have officially taken over ownership of the cafe and have been open since May 17. I had the opportunity to go into the cafe to speak with them. MacGregor tells the story of how they ended up business owners.

Andrew MacGregor 2:05
Well, some months ago, Aurynn and I worked together at One Roof Community Centre. At One Roof, we prepared lunches for roughly 200 people or 200 meals, and we’d get into the kitchen there and we’d be chopping vegetables, and, you know, you’re there. And you’re talking and chatting, whatever. We started asking the question like, hey, what would it take for us to do this for ourselves? What would it take for us to run a pub or a cafe or a restaurant? Aurynn and a few others, we got together weekly, we made a list of all of the the bars in town and we went and visited and you know, “We like this about this bar. This one’s too loud. This one has too many TVs.” You know, if we’re going to do this for ourselves, you know, what do we really want to do? And we were minding our own business when the owner here, Jin, approached me and said, “Hey, are you are you interested in changing careers? I’m selling the business.” And so that became a conversation. We passed on it initially. You know, it’s it’s a cafe, it’s a bit of a departure from what we really want. And, no, we came back around and it really will suit our purposes and you know how we want to be involved in the community.

Eddy Sweeney 3:16
If you’re familiar with downtown Peterborough. The first thing you will notice is the name change. Dreams of beans had recently undergone a rebranding to Dreams Cafe and Bistro. Returning the cafe to its original name was one of the first things the new owners felt should happen.

Aurynn Jacobs Parkin 3:34
Being changed like dreams cafe and Bistro to me was like, oh, right, we’re going into more gentrification of downtown and like, everybody wants to be a bistro. So I really wanted to like if we were going to take the space, the name actually came up a lot in terms of like, are we going to keep the name even. And we settled on just like going back to the original name, because that’s kind of the space that we want to provide is what they were originally going for in the first place.

Eddy Sweeney 3:58
Although they are committed to preserving the spirit of the original business, they have their own big ideas and changes in mind. On their social media pages, dreams of Beans is classified as a social enterprise cafe. MacGregor explains what that means exactly.

Andrew MacGregor 4:17
So a social enterprise is a collaboration of work that puts the social values first. You know, we’re human beings, human beings have complicated needs. A lot of us can work nine to five, eight hour shifts, and some of us really can’t. There’s a lot of barriers to access and employment. When you have a rigid schedule when you have a rigid skill set. And putting social enterprise values first means that we try to remove as many of those barriers as we can.

Eddy Sweeney 4:51
Another change the new owners are implementing is the removal of tipping. In the Dreams of Beans Instagram page bio, it says no “no tipping.” And they have tagged all of their initial posts with “#canceltipping.” Aurynn Jacobs Parkin explains this unconventional change.

Aurynn Jacobs Parkin 5:10
And I don’t think that it’s up to the patrons to be able to dictate whether or not you go home satisfied with how much you got paid. And if a business is running and is being successful then they should be able to pay their staff adequately so that they don’t have to worry about working the most stressful shifts of the week, just to be able to like go home, pay their rent, feed their kids, or their cats or whatever.

Eddy Sweeney 5:33
With their commitment to paying their employees a living wage, it is important to understand what that means here in Peterborough. According to the Ontario Living Wage Network, and the living wage report released by United Way Peterborough in November of 2022, the living wage for an adult working 35 hours each week is $19.05 per hour. MacGregor used this number as a starting point when deciding the hourly wage for Dreams of Beans employees, but believes that it’s not enough. He has recognized that the cost of living in our community is always increasing. And the numbers in this report may not be as up to date as they would like. And MacGregor shares what they plan to pay their employees.

Andrew MacGregor 6:15
So where’s the right line to say, yes, we can do the living wage, yes, we should share our profits with our laborers as well. And so we’ve landed at $25 per hour. And in the future, it means, you know, with employment insurance deductions and other things that are a regular kind of paycheck style, $25 per hour less that will still land somebody at about 22-something at take home, which is much better than 19.60 Less deductions, which is far and above way better than the minimum wage at 15.60. Less deductions.

Eddy Sweeney 6:46
The new owners are committed to making dreams of beans perfect for them and explain what improvements they are working towards in the coming weeks and months.

Aurynn Jacobs Parkin 6:54
So right now we are looking at getting a new awning. That’s a big next step for us so that we can have a little bit more of an inviting patio and a liquor license so that we can kind of transfer into more pub fare pub style, but also keeping like the early mornings, cafe, chill in the day and then leading into more bar vibes at night as well.

Eddy Sweeney 7:16
This new iteration of a long standing cafe in downtown Peterborough is currently open for customers. They are excited for the months to come and are passionate about providing a space for everyone in this community.

Andrew MacGregor 7:29
I want to make sure that no matter who comes in my door that I’ve got their drink for them. And that’s something that, you know, it’s going to take some time and we’re working into, but that’s I think, you know, like an unspoken goal that we have.

Eddy Sweeney 7:40
This has been Eddy Sweeney reporting for the Local Journalism Initiative. And for CFFF FM, 92.7, Trent Radio in Peterborough, Canada.

Will Pearson 7:50
Hey, thanks for listening to this podcast version of Eddy’s story brought to you by Peterborough Currents. If you’re looking for more independent, community-focused local journalism, head over to our website, it’s peterboroughcurrents.ca. And if you like what you see there, you should sign up for our newsletter. That’s the best way to keep up to date with all of our stories. And if you really like what you see there, you should consider chipping in if you’re able to. Audience funding is our most important source of revenue. It powers everything that we do and the more we receive from the community, the more journalism we’ll be able to produce. So thanks for considering that and thanks for listening.


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