Hope you are all doing great! Welcome back to my blog.
For 2019, I am starting a new series on here that shines a spotlight on movers and shakers in the city of Toronto. I will be interviewing people from a wide variety of backgrounds, professions and walks of life.
Today’s special guest feature is Salim Bamakhrama who is the owner of a coffee company called Hailed Coffee, which has two locations in the city, One in the Riverdale neighbourhood (which we visited) and another in the College Park area of downtown Toronto.
Hailed Coffee has been cited as one of the top coffee shops in the City of Toronto by websites like Foursquare City Guide and has been featured in a number of different media outlets including BlogTO. It is one of the few coffee shops in the city to serve traditional Arabic coffee. The shop has been designed with a chic and minimalistic type of aesthetic sure to please visitors eyes.
Salim is trained in the field of architecture, having studied at University of Toronto however he took his skills that were gained from his studies to go on a path of entrepreneurship by opening up his now renowned coffee shop; Hailed Coffee. We thought his story was quite interesting and so we decided to ask him if he would be willing to be one of our first interviewees for our blog, and we were delighted when he agreed to do so.
When we arrived to his shop Salim was very welcoming, he met us with an array of dates and cookies as well as a pot of Gah’wah (Arabic coffee). We really did not expect this and were pleasantly surprised as he sat us by the charming window corner seat so we could begin the interview.
It was a quiet Sunday evening but the coffee house was still packed with people of all ages. There was the reader by the window, the friends having a conversation over lattes and the new parents who popped into the store to grab a coffee with stroller in tow.
KATIA: Hi Salim, Thanks for having us at your beautiful coffee shop and thank you for this beautiful presentation of treats! So I first have to ask you, how did your coffee shop come to be? and how did you go from working in the architectural field to being an entrepreneur?
SALIM: Architecture creates spaces for communities to gather. Great minds have historically met over this magical elixir of Coffee! While the business projection might have changed a bit for me, I see architecture as an integral part of my thinking and design process in creating Hailed.
KATIA: So now that we know one of the motivations for opening your coffee shop. Do you remember when the exact moment was that you decided you want to open a coffee shop?
SALIM: My wife and I were on a camp, and we were having traditional Arabic coffee. I distinctly remember her exclaiming “Wow, this is so good!” Sharing this joyous sensation with Torontonians has since become a seed for Hailed Coffee. The diverse city of Toronto houses rich cultural intercrossings and its residents enjoy an elevated taste and seek unique gastronomic experiences. We hope to provide this beautiful city with a long-missing edge to coffee from the roots its come from. While coffee has traversed the worlds, the traditional method of brewing Arabic coffee has not been modernized and still carries that mystical heritage of prolonged brewing and spicing. We wanted to incorporate that into the busy city and offer Arabic Coffee, done right and fast. We Hailed coffee to Toronto with a touch of Hail. Our take on Arabic infusions lies in the name Hail, which is the phenotic transliteration for the word cardamom in Arabic, introducing the customers’ favourite Hailed Lattes.
KATIA: How did you choose this area in particular to locate your business
SALIM: I like our Riverdale location because it is nestled in a livable community and is located at the intersection of different neighbourhoods including Riverdale, Greektown (The Danforth) and on the West you have East China town and Little India Bazaar on the East. It is an up and coming area and the streets are becoming livelier by the day, so we are fortunate to have our first shop located here.
KATIA: What are some of your responsibilities as a business owner and what is a day in the life of Salim like?
SALIM: My main responsibility is telling the Hailed story and bringing people together over excellent coffee or tea. Like many coffee shop owners, I have a certain number of shifts to work as a barista in the cafe. It is the best part of the job, meeting customers, friends and family and making coffee. Being an entrepreneur I have to wear many hats and this includes being a marketer, strategist, and accountant all at once. During my day I try to fit in some creative activities by taking photos of the store and our products for instagram and the curating our instagram feed.
KATIA: Who does your Marketing for Hailed Coffee and how is it done?
SALIM: All our marketing is organic. Our best marketers are our customers. We definitely focus on instagram as it is visual and currently highly engaged social media platform. I am in control of the instagram account and we take most of the photos for our feed by ourselves. As well, we are fortunate enough to have amazing customers who re-post our instagram photos and it all adds to our marketing.
KATIA: What were some of the considerations you had when designing your cafe?
SALIM: Well I wanted a minimalistic look to the cafe, one where the coffee took centre stage more than anything. When designing I had to consider how to optimize space to ensure the baristas can work comfortably and that allow for the ensuring of a safe environment. So after many iterations I came up with a design that I was happy with.
Question: Apart from coffee what are some of the other products / services that you offer?
SALIM: Well we do sell a variety of sweet items such as dates and traditional arab cookies known as maamoul, as well as our chocolates as displayed here.
We also operate a catering business that serves weddings and other events and we are thankfully progressing with that as well.
KATIA: As an individual trained in architecture what are some of your thoughts on Toronto’s architecture? What are your thoughts on Toronto’s Architecture today:
SALIM: In Toronto It’s changing rapidly. A lot of shops close and open all the time in this city. A lot of interior architecture is happening more so than whole . So we tend to see a lot of interior focused projects. Signage designs has also become a big thing in the city.
KATIA: What are some of your main challenges of running the cafe?
SALIM: Well the hardest part is ensuring continued excellence in operations everyday.
KATIA: What are some of the things you attribute to your success?
SALIM: Well for sure I would say our customers, but also my team that is behind this store.
KATIA: Salim we thank you for your time and for opening your doors to us. We are very grateful for your hospitality!
SALIM: You are most welcome!—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————--
After the interview I could not help but take home some goodies for my friends and family !
We were very impressed by the offerings at Hailed Coffee and would highly recommend this cafe for anyone looking to try out Arabic Coffee.
We would like to thank Salim once again for the opportunity to interview him at his establishment and we wish him and his business all the success for the year ahead!
Until next time, love and light always!
Hailed Coffee has two locations and they can be found below:
801 Gerrard St E
College Park Location
44 Gerrard St W
Photography by Karimah Gheddai Photography