The MP for Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows has donated his coffee shop business to a local non-profit group that helps youth find their own path.
Now those kids will be serving customers and helping fund the program they have benefited from themselves.
“I wanted to do something for the community,” said MP Dan Ruimy, whose business, Bean Around Books and Tea, is located on Lougheed Highway in downtown Maple Ridge.
It used to be as much his own living room as a business, prior to his election in 2015 with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party.
Ruimy hosted everything from game nights to Tarot card readings in the little coffee shop and bookstore.
Now he has given the business and all its contents – 20,000 books, all of the equipment for making coffee, tea and sandwiches – as well as all of his branding, logos and website to the Pathfinder Youth Centre Society.
The building is leased.
The society works with youth who have barriers to employment, be it mental illness, a history of addiction, or language barriers.
“We just try to get them back on track,” said Ruth Lee, one of the society’s founders.
She and her husband, Orville Lee, have had a lot of support from Ruimy – he took them to Ottawa to offer their insights to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Persons with Disabilities.
Ruimy regularly presents to their classes, and with his help their annual funding was expanded to a three-year contract.
Still, Ruth Lee was overwhelmed by the donation.
“It’s a real honour for him to recognize our work,” she said. “He’s been a real supporter of us.”
Having started her own venture, Lee can appreciate how much the business has been part of Ruimy’s life.
“Your blood runs through the walls,” she said.
Ruimy said he owned the business for seven years and one month.
“I think it’s what got me elected,” he added. “I learned a lot about our people here.”
There were games nights with marathon sessions of Settlers of Catan that went until 1 a.m., the monthly Philosophers Cafe, and the monthly Coffee Tea and Intuition, at which people talked about metaphysical topics.
There was also the “Truth Talks,” when they discussed conspiracy theories, as well as a yoga night, guided meditation and slam poetry readings.
He said the shop brought people together.
“There was hoodie guy, with a beard down to here, mingling with well-to-do guy, both coming to play games with us,” Ruimy said.
“I love the sound of a guitar in here,” he said, looking around at the book-lined walls.
But, he concedes, the business was never going to make him a lot of money.
“It took care of me, and I went away once or twice a year – nothing extravagant. And I was happy.”
Now he goes away all the time – to Ottawa – and the business was starting to become a liability.
“It’s not the easiest to manage, because I’m never here.”
Divesting himself of his bookstore was more like finding a home for a beloved pet. Ruimy looked around for a buyer, but couldn’t find one that fit. All wanted to take his labour of love and mess with it. One guy wanted to turn it into a vape shop.
“I wasn’t interested in that,” Ruimy said.
He thought the business could be a good fit for the Pathfinder society – a place for youth to get work experience, and for revenue to help fund the program..
Over 19 weeks, Pathfinder participants take courses in first aid, hazardous materials and Serving it Right. There is also a coffee barista course.
Then they get a 13-week work experience component.
Ruimy has spent a couple hours with each new intake of students into the federally funded program.
“I tell them that life is about choices, and that we want to see them succeed,” he said.
Lee agreed the business is a great place for the Pathfinder youth. It’s a place of work, but they’re not run off their feet like they might be under a corporate employer.
“It’s quaint. It’s very cute, and it’s got that small-town vibe to it,” she said. “It has regular customers and its own culture.”
Knowing what the business meant to Ruimy, Lee felt for him when he handed over the keys earlier this month.
For Ruimy, the bookstore is a chapter of his life that is now closed.
He has given it away and moved on.
“And I feel good about it.”