Friday, February 23, 2024

‘It just feels natural’: Hey Happy expanding onwards and upwards at Uptown


The lineup at Lower Johnson’s Hey Happy cafe is always long and for good reason—they offer something special to downtown coffee lovers that just can’t be found anywhere else. 

And soon, not only will people be able to grab a cup of coffee from Hey Happy downtown, but they will also be able to find them at Uptown Shopping Centre. 

Co-owner Rob Kettner has been running Hey Happy for just shy of 10 years now, with their 10th anniversary coming up this July. 

Prior to opening up shop on Lower Johnson Street, he was an award-winning barista and had worked in the Victoria coffee scene for years. 

“I just wanted to bring something slightly different to town as far as coffee service goes,” Kettner told Victoria Buzz. 

The concept was not just espresso, but a pourover bar with light-roasted, third wave coffee that he sources from all over Canada and beyond. 

Over the last 10 years he has built his brand and his team, expanded the cafe just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, weathered that storm, bounced back and now after everything he’s been through, Kettner hopes to grow even more. 

Last year, he brought on his former general manager, Andrew Paquet, as a Co-owner and partner in all things coffee. 

Paquet has also poured his soul into coffee and even used to own and operate Be Still Cody Coffee Roasters before moving out to the east coast of Canada.

But then Kettner asked Paquet to fly back, get back in the coffee game and help his old boss as a full partner in the business, and he did.

“I feel very fortunate to have this guy as my partner,” Kettner said. 

“Honestly, I never felt such a symbiotic relationship like I do now with [Paquet], so I feel like we can do anything,” he continued. 

Their first move was to expand what they both know and love about Hey Happy by bringing it into one of the four courtyard kiosks at Uptown. 

They said that the team at Uptown had been contacting them for years to bring their brand into the mix and represent local in the courtyard. 

At the time they were first contacted by Uptown’s management team, they were right in the midst of expanding the existing Hey Happy and it just wasn’t in the cards for them to take on that secondary expansion. 

After five years, the stars aligned and Paquet and Kettner were looking for a second location at the same time as Mr. Pretzels was moving out of one of the four kiosks, so they snatched up the opportunity. 

“When it came down to where we could go, what might work for us and who was showing us the love, it was [Uptown],” Kettner explained.

“It just feels natural,” Paquet added. 

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The kiosk location won’t be able to offer all the same wares as the Lower Johnson shop, but Paquet and Kettner have put together a menu of “all the bangers” when it comes to their signature drinks and food. 

As for the food, they shared that people will be able to get their popular breakfast sandwich and for lunch items they are planning on having some easy, yet delicious Italian cold-pressed sandwiches as well as some big fresh salads. 

When it comes to the kiosk’s vibe, they say they will be bringing the same feelings of fun that they have at their original shop.

Customers can expect there will be funk music and playing on the outside and they will be bringing as much colour and brightness as they can to the kiosk.

“We’re just trying to bring the same energy and day-party atmosphere of Hey Happy into this space,” Paquet said. 

“I think it’s going to look rad,” added Kettner. 

One thing they both said is key to them is they don’t want to step on any of their neighbours toes. 

With Crust Bakery, Softy’s Ice Cream and Puerto Vallarta Amigos as their local neighbours, they feel safe in what they will be adding to the courtyard that will be symbiotic and complimentary with the other businesses, rather than being competitive. 

Although there are still some factors that are out of Hey Happy’s hands, Kettner and Paquet hope to have their new kiosk location open to the public on April 1st.

Curtis Blandy

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