An interview with Marta Pozniakowski, leader in the Polish community, a successful real estate broker and Executive Director of the Toronto Polish Film Festival. Most recently, she has launched a brand-new business, a café. Chamber Communications Committee Chair interviewed Marta regarding this new venture. You can visit Espresso Bar Namaste at 392 Brown’s Line, Toronto, or order from Uber Eats!
Most people in the Polish community recognize you as the Executive Director of Ekran Polish Film Association. Before we dive into your new business, can you speak to how COVID will impact the annual Toronto Polish Film Festival?
Due to the global pandemic the board decided we won’t be hosting the Toronto Polish Film Festival. We know our audience really wanted the festival to happen, even as an online event, but I believe there is no way I can recreate for people the experience the same way as I would do it at the cinema. The festival relies on human interaction. Yes, we can have online screenings, but we can also watch Netflix. The festival was created for people to meet in person, interact in person, bond and experience the magic of a big screen in a room specially created for the experience – the movie theatre.
Ekran will come back next year, where we will celebrate its 12th and 13th issues. As a fully registered charity, we can accept corporate donations and have an open door to take advantage of government funding. Together with the board, we will organize something very special and excellent in 2021!
Alongside your work in the non-profit sector, you are also a real estate broker. How did this career lead to your latest venture, a café?
Uff… it’s hard to believe this story, but ok I will share it with you. Every year I create a vision board. Last year I was working on my vision board for a couple months. My vision boards are like an art- a beautiful collage of pictures and colors and slogans. That year I also encouraged my older son to make one. I finished my vision board in February. I knew back then, that I want to own my own brokerage and be the number one broker in Canada (there is a story of how I became a number one broker in my brokerage, but I will tell you that one on a different occasion, but simply I applied same principles).
On my vision board in the middle, there was a picture a very elegant entrance to a real estate brokerage. Around some cool photos of real estate properties that I liked and some slogans… In November last year, right after I started renovating the building, I was sitting in front of my vision board and meditating. And it hit me- OMG! I screamed- my husband jumped in bed asking- what the hell happened?! I said- You won’t believe it! – I run to him with my vision board. On the left site of the picture with the entrance to the brokerage there was a picture of a modern looking café, people sitting with their laptops working. I was in awe. I mean- I know this law of attraction has been working for me- but this was again another surprise. I include this photo and wasn’t even aware of it and after I started building the café and the brokerage, I noticed I did indeed include the photo of the café on the board as well.
But, omitting this cute personal story, I just really love coffee, and at some point, particularly after doing my taxes, I realized I spend a lot of money for coffee for my clients. I figured it would be a good business. Coffee is considered to be black gold after all. It is depression resistant and as you can assume, the economy is heading into a depression. In an age of increasingly media-activated communication (particularly now during the pandemic), cafés become a privileged site of face-to-face interaction, which, is an increasingly exotic form of human communication.
When did you first start working on Espresso Bar Namaste?
It was exactly in November 2019 when I bought the building.
When did you officially launch your business?
Well… I like to consider the launching as October 13, 2020, although launching it just as a to-go place, is not a “Grand Opening”. I am hoping to do a more official opening as soon as we will be able to throw a big party and invite everybody!
How did you decide on the location of your café?
First, it was the cheapest building I could find and second there is a huge potential in the area. Alderwoods is a sleepy little community tucked behind Gardiner and Brown’s Line. It’s a lovely neighbourhood with a great school, library, community centre, excellent access to trails, ravine park and a great commute to downtown Toronto. With prices already going over the $1 MIL mark you may still be able to find a deal. This area is also under-serviced and I would like to see more new businesses opening in the neighbourhood so Alderwood can become a sustainable little village where you don’t have to drive to get everything that you need.
What challenges did you face opening a new café during a pandemic?
I was in the middle of a renovation when the lockdown happened. All my crew disappeared to take advantage of CERB. I was so frustrated that I started doing lots of the work on my own such as pouring the concrete in the basement to make the floor even, laying the vinyl floor, tiles and painting. My husband helped me a lot too. He actually built the bar for me. I waited for the sign permit for over 6 months. It took a while, but I don’t think the pandemic affected me in any way. Considering it’s a new business built from scratch, I started right on time with everything the way I imagined. I love this place so much; it makes me so happy. I built it myself and love spending my time here. Even now- its almost midnight but I love working from here. It’s like a dream come true!
What sets your café apart from others?
Aha! Love this question! We offer a real baristas experience. Serving traditional espresso, the Italian way. Our Rufino Coffee beans come from the Classic Gourmet Coffee that supplies the best coffee places in Toronto. We can prepare anything you like, any espresso-based drink with high-quality products made with love by highly trained baristas. Our coffee is not cheap but you will taste the difference right away.
Aside from coffee, what else is on the menu?
Classic menu items for an espresso bar which includes croissants, almond croissants, gluten-free cookies, vegan date squares, yoghurts, organic fruits (bananas, apples), healthy organic snacks and bars. This all made locally. The NAGI bars and macaroons are local as well, the founder is actually Polish. As you can figure, NAGI means Naked. They also make Mid Day Squares, Jal Gua and Moringa superfood powders which we use to make Energy Balls and add to smoothies. Actually, we just introduced smoothies, that have very cool names: Red Berry Zen, Sun Salutation Mango Smoothie, Chocolate Downward Dog and Green Tree of Life. Our partner is Genuine Tea, a family-owned business that distributes Teas and Chocolate Trades, producers of award-winning chocolates. We use their chocolate to make hot or ice drinking chocolate. It’s the real stuff, not powder and sugar.
Do you have any advice for our members who may be considering opening a new business in today’s unprecedented times?
Absolutely! If you have an idea to open a business just do it. Don’t wait for the perfect time or opportunity. As you can see, I opened when shit hit the fan and that really didn’t affect my business. You have to work on your vision and attitude, I told myself, whatever is happening in the world now I am not participating. Following one of my favourite quotes of John D. Rockefeller “I always tried to turn every disaster into an opportunity”, I believe it’s going to be the best year for me personally, professionally and financially.
OPEN FOR BUSINESS – Espresso Bar Namaste at 392 Brown’s Line, Toronto, ON.
CLICK HERE to order online from Uber Eats.