B.C.’s We Wai Kai First Nation broke ground on the first Indigenous-owned Starbucks licenced-store in Canada on March 20.
The ceremony was held on the site of the new store in the Quinsam Crossing development in Campbell River.
We Wai Kai members and Starbucks Canada representatives met at the site to begin the construction process. A traditional blessing was held, led by Namgis Chief Wedlidi Speck. We Wai Kai chief Ronnie Chickite spoke about the importance of this partnership and the economic benefit it will have for the We Wai Kai people.
“For us to have self-determination, we need to get into these partnerships and Starbucks is to us was right at the top of the list,” Chickite said.” Economically this is a big boost to our Nation. We just we did a feasibility study and just looking at the that it made total sense for us to get into this partnership.”
The store is the first of its kind in Canada. Starbucks Canada vice-president of operations and business development Shannon Leisz said that reconciliation is important to the company, and that she hoped this would be the first of many similar partnerships across Canada.
“We believe that there’s an important role for businesses to play in reconciliation,” Leisz said. “This type of collaboration is important and a really good first step. What we’re hopeful for is that this is the first of many. We shouldn’t stop here. There’s more economic developmentthat can happen.”
For the We Wai Kai, opening a Starbucks at this spot just made sense.
“I don’t know why nobody else really pursued (opening a Starbucks) as Nations, but for us, we just knew we needed to take a shot and we were grateful that they said yes,” Chickite said. “We drive downtown — lots of us are business people — and looked at all the other establishments and and even just the current Starbucks location. I mean, it’s lined up all the door. So we felt like here the perfect opportunity.”
Though it can be difficult to predict when construction projects are complete, Leisz said the goal is to open the store by fall of this year.
“We just can’t wait to have the building up and start getting customers,” Chickite said.