Think of a barista making your favourite brew and chances are, they’re nothing like Chris Battagli (BBA ’18) or his father Carmine.
“If you plant me and Carm next to anyone in this industry, we’d stand out like a sore thumb,” says Chris, a graduate of Brock University’s Goodman School of Business. “Our end goals are very different than a lot of those people’s end goals.”
The father and son owners of 416 Coffee make a mean cuppa joe, don’t get him wrong. But they love cars, and Chris adores fashion — streetwear, especially — and that influences how they do things at 416 Coffee.
Mostly, they love running a business.
“If coffee was illegal, I’d find another business to run tomorrow,” Chris says.
The good news for aficionados of a perfectly pulled espresso is that’s not likely to happen and 416 Coffee will be here to supply them at their St. Catharines and Grimsby locations.
Before 416 existed in the 905, Chris studied marketing at Goodman and noticed growing interest in fair trade, single-origin, artisanal coffees.
Carm had years of roasting experience from previous ventures and in 2015, he and Chris began brewing plans for Niagara’s newest coffee purveyor.
Chris’s time at Goodman prepared him for entrepreneur life. At a high level, it gave him “the basic skills to go out into the world and contribute,” he says,
The demands of studying and starting a business taught him time management, too. Most notable was a consumer behaviour course that gave Chris a glimpse of what compels people to spend their money.
Over the next few years, father and son diligently built 416 Coffee while Chris finished school and pored over social media to find suppliers of traceable and ethically sourced beans the Battaglis could turn into those highly coveted artisanal roasts.
They started selling their signature beans to local restaurants. Then came efforts to open a takeout kiosk in St. Catharines’ Port Dalhousie neighbourhood.
The pair “drained their bank accounts” and put in all the elbow grease to open their postage stamp-sized coffee shop that bucked every café trend, including those found at the java joint just down the block.
People would laugh when they found out what they were doing. “They’d say, ‘You know there’s a coffee shop down the street?’” Chris recalls.
The Battaglis managed to turn naysayers into regulars once they opened. The reason: “You have to be focused on what you do, taking care of customers,” Chris says. “If you do, everything will take care of itself.”
How else could they have opened another outlet, growing their business in a global pandemic?
It helped that they “doubled down” on their online retail business. Even better that they already established 416 Coffee as a grab-and-go shop with no tables for lingering. The economic uncertainty of the pandemic also meant they could negotiate favourable rent in Grimsby.
Success seemed written in their tea leaves with Chris’s passion and perseverance helping to see them through.
“I’m very clear about what I want from my life,” Chris says. “I always wanted to be successful. I wanted to have a big life. Once you’re clear about what you want, you’ll push yourself through any adversity. It’s a very clear goal and it’s getting there, no matter what.
“But it’s also enjoying the day-to-day,” he adds. “Not every day is great but it’s about enjoying it. Everything is getting you toward your end goal you’ve got to reach.”