From Columbia to Shaunavon – A high octane connection.

By Catalina Margulis

In a very small town called Shaunavon in Saskatchewan, a young woman dared to dream. After 14 years of cooking and waiting tables in restaurants, Kelsey Dawn Hedstrom finally decided to open her own eatery, the first of its kind in her town. This is where she grew up and has lived her entire life, and where she chose to make her dream come true.

Kelsey’s 306 Café and Bistro specializes in coffee, smoothies, paninis, wraps, soups, sandwiches and now also delicious desserts. There are soups of the day such as pizza, taco or potato bacon. For those who enjoy bubble tea, there are various options, including having your bubble tea turned from slushy to smoothie. The smoothies are all made with real fruit.

“We’re the only place in town that does smoothies,” Kelsey says. “People are loving that, especially because they can’t get them anywhere else. We’re in the middle of nowhere. The closest place is an hour away!”

So far, Kelsey says customers have been really enjoying the food, although due to COVID-19 and Saskatchewan regulations, the café is doing mostly takeout these days. Kelsey opened the café and bistro on December 17, 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic. Despite the restrictions, she believes with proper precautions and safety measures, the  business can still run successfully.

“There has been a whole lot more cleaning. We have to keep everything sanitized, make sure everyone is wearing a mask and we’re constantly wiping down everything. I’m clean to begin with, but it’s a lot more now. You can’t ever clean too much in a restaurant.”

Kelsey feels that the pandemic has not affected the restaurant and business has stayed pretty steady the whole time with takeout orders and the odd person coming in to sit inside, although not as many as she would like to see. “I pictured giving people a nice place to hang out with their friends. Now we’re limited to what we can do; there’s a lot of in and out traffic.”

Overall, Kelsey has received a lot of support from friends, family and everyone in town. She says they are full of support and love to show it. Though it’s her first time owning her own business, her years working in the restaurant industry have prepared her well. “I knew what I was getting into,” she says. “A few friends own businesses, so I watched them and how they had their problems and overcame them.”

The only real surprise Kelsey experienced was getting into the world of specialty coffees.

“My brother-in-law’s uncle is married to a lovely Colombian woman who told us about her farmer friend. She owns her own coffee farm and picks and roasts her own beans, so I asked if she wanted to be a part of the restaurant and she was so excited about it!. It’s always good to help other business owners and it’s so cool to get coffee from so far away and it be so good.”

The customers have shown interest in where the coffee comes from, so Kelsey sells the beans on their own as well. Inside the restaurant, there are pictures hanging of the farm in Colombia and the customers are always pointing them out.

As for new business owners, Kelsey urges them to follow their dreams.

“Don’t let life stop you from doing what you want to do. For those who are hoping to open up their own restaurant, it’s important to do your research. Know where you are going to source your food from and explore all of your options.

“For businesses in small towns, make sure you support other businesses because they will support you as well.”

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