Grinding to the next level: new era at Bridgehead

Three short years ago I wrote about my favourite coffee shop chain Bridgehead on the occasion of their 10th location in Ottawa. Well, tomorrow, they’ll be opening their 15th store just off Preston. Think it’s a fluke they’ve been so successful? I Beg to Differ!

The new HQ – off Preston Avenue.

More than a store

The bright, spacious new retail store is just the beginning. There’s a lot more to this space.

Sorry, when I say “store”, I’m using the wrong word. The new Bridgehead location – just now getting its final tweaks prior to public opening tomorrow – will be far more than just another retail coffeeshop. It’s going to be the new head office for the Bridgehead chain and the new central warehouse to supply all 15 Bridgehead outlets across the urban core – big enough to have space for a community room, and hold coffee tasting workshops for staff and the public.

But in an even bigger development for the chain, it’s a roastery as well! So as of tomorrow, all coffee in all Bridgeheads across Ottawa will be roasted by their own local staff right here in Ottawa. 

This marks Bridgehead’s transition from being a retail reseller of other people’s coffee to being a producer and innovator, selling their own coffee. Along with this, they are building a team of experts who have already had to learn to produce large volumes every day.

Bridgehead 2.0

The roastery is filled with gear straight out of a steam-punk alchemist’s lab.

And you can really taste, smell. and see the difference. I tried one of the new Espresso roasts in a tasty, steaming cup of Americano today, and it not only tastes better, it looks better – with a real head of dense foam like you find on your cup in Europe.

One day early, I was invited in for a sneak peak at the new location, and I asked Bridgehead’s Coffee Program Manager Ian Clark whether  that was just my imagination. Here’s his geeky-but-fascinating answer, plus a look around the new roasting facility – including a glimpse of their new “Human Roaster.” Check out the YouTube.

Brand evolution

What becomes very obvious very quickly is that Bridgehead is evolving into a different kind of brand. Always a savvy purveyor of great coffee, they are now becoming a place where great coffee products are developed and refined.

What does this mean for Bridgehead? Well, this is where I’d love to hear from you. Have you tried the new roasts? Are you excited about visiting? Let me know in the comments!

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