INNISFAIL – Sandy Biles and Jackie Brackney are two bakers who love to serve up inspirational creations for their customers.
But now they are the ones who have become inspired.
And that’s because they are no longer just bakers.
Today they are restauranteurs; the new co-owners of The Coffee Cottage; a downtown Innisfail eatery that became the town’s most popular noon hour destination ever since it was purchased by the equally popular Dale Dunham and Shaun Steen in April of 2020.
Brackney, 34, is a lifelong Innisfailian who has worked at The Coffee Cottage for the past 18 months. Biles, 35, is a proud native of Newfoundland and Labrador, and a former resident of Innisfail, who has been baking the goods at The Coffee Cottage for the past three and a half years.
They both loved their jobs and had dreams of one day running their own show.
And it came this fall when Dunham approached them about taking over The Coffee Cottage.
“I was shocked. I wanted to buy it the minute I was hired,” said Brackney. However, Dunham’s announcement was two years before Brackney was expecting the two men to sell the business.
Both ladies went home that night to talk about the sudden offer with their husbands. It took Brackney and her husband just two hours to make a decision.
For Biles it was a little longer as she and her family, who had lived in Innisfail for seven years, had recently moved north into Red Deer County. With a new house and her family to consider, a final decision took about a week.
“It was definitely an option and an opportunity that we won't get again, so we better make the best of it,” said Biles of the reasoning behind her family’s final decision to take the plunge to become a business owner.
The sale to the new owners was finalized on Nov. 10.
Biles and Brackney have always loved The Coffee Cottage for what it has meant to the community; a beloved social and gathering place where everyone of any age, race, religion or sexual orientation is welcomed.
That will absolutely not change, said the new owners. But they also want to expand that vision to bring in more families.
“We are moms. Our kids come to work with us when they are not in school,” said Biles. “We are actually making one of the rooms in the back that is kid friendly; has toys and stuff so that when you come in the kids can play while you can sit down and relax and have a coffee and socialize.”
Brackney added the mantra for the new owners is inclusivity, no matter what age.
“We want it to be very inclusive for everyone, ages zero to 99, and an open door for everyone,” said Brackney.
And this will also include support for the Innisfail Pride festival; a successful annual community event for the past three years that has been organized from The Coffee Cottage.
“We want to 100 per cent support the community the best we can - for everything,” said Brackney.
In the meantime, Dunham is firmly supportive of the two new owners. He was at The Coffee Cottage on Nov. 17 to help the ladies with the transition.
He conceded the decision to move on is an “end of an era” for he and Steen but is “humbled and honoured” by what the Innisfail community has allowed them to do.
“Through The Coffee Cottage I probably wouldn't be on town council. If it wasn't for The Coffee Cottage I probably wouldn't be as involved in all the different events and societies that I am in,” said Dunham, adding the decision to sell was made in large part due to his commitment on town council and Steen’s growing real estate work.
“It has been a vehicle for Shaun and I to really become part of the community.”
Dunham is also confident Biles and Brackney will not only embrace The Coffee Cottage’s welcoming ambience but “take it to the next level".
“They are two people that have the energy and have the vision to really bring it to fruition,” said Dunham. “They've got a great team. Everybody that's there currently is staying on.
“And literally it's a transfer of ownership, but it's not a transfer of an ideology behind it. That's important to us.”