Winnipeg coffee shop responds to break-in by donating part of sales to homeless shelter
'We have to prevent these things from happening at the root cause,' says Parlour Coffee owner Nils Vik
Nils Vik is turning a break-in at his Main Street business into an opportunity to reach out to Winnipeg's most vulnerable.
Following a Jan. 6 break-in at Parlour Coffee, Vik says he's decided to donate a percentage of his coffee shop's sales to the Main Street Project, a Winnipeg not-for-profit that provides shelter and support for Winnipeg's homeless.
But Vik acknowledges that wasn't his first reaction to the break-in.
"When I first got the call I was discouraged and exasperated, to be honest — not wanting to deal with this on the weekend, because I have a six-month-old daughter at home and a four-year-old toddler. So selfishly, I would rather be at home than clean up a mess in the shop."
Vik says the door of the coffee shop on Main Street just south of Bannatyne Avenue was kicked in on Jan. 6. A safe inside was broken into and around $600 was stolen. Deadbolts and locks, along with one of the coffee brewers, were also damaged.
Catalyst for change
But after his initial annoyance, he turned his thoughts to the state of mind of the perpetrator.
"I couldn't help but think … man, you have to be in pretty rough shape that you think the best means of acquiring some income is to break in somewhere in the middle of the night. That is not a position I would want to be in. As annoying as it was to clean it all up, I am thankful I am not in that position."
Vik didn't have an alarm system at the time — he had one installed shortly after the break-in. But that spurred more thought.
"What does an alarm system actually do? It just moves the potential for crime elsewhere. So if we want to try and make any lasting change, we have to prevent these things from happening at the root cause. Clearly it has to do with inequality and income disparity and poverty. Those things an alarm system can't fix."
Vik was contacted by media about the break-in, but rather than focusing on what he lost, he wanted to focus on why it happened.
"It's about taking something negative and turning it into a positive. We don't want to perpetuate this myth that downtown Winnipeg is unsafe.… That got a lot of traction on social media," he said.
"We had a staff meeting. It made sense for us to team up with an organization that is helping those who are vulnerable in our community. And we want to try and get some sort of change happening and be part of that in a small way."
Decision to donate
Vik contacted the Main Street Project about a partnership and as of Thursday, Parlour Coffee will donate one per cent of all of its sales in 2018 to Main Street programming.
Vik says the shop will also use its social media platform to highlight the work at the shelter and some of the realities its clients face.
"At first we thought it was a fundraiser for few weeks or a month. And then he said for the rest of the year. All of us were really blown away by this idea and their willingness to be so generous. It was a really wonderful feeling," said Cindy Titus, a spokesperson for the Main Street Project.
"It shows such compassion and care and leadership," she said.
"He is turning something bad that happened to him into reaching out in a positive way. That's amazing. It's the kind of leadership we need in this city."
Vik is hoping the partnership will generate conversation and dialogue about the plight vulnerable people in the city face.
"It's a blessing that we haven't had this happen sooner in the seven years we have been open. But I am thankful for a kick in the butt to make our business a little more integrated in to the community and make some change," he said.
"We are taking a stand. I feel excited about that. It's a new chapter for our business."