Harken Coffee: Different by Design

December 18, 2019

Harken Coffee hasn’t yet opened up its flagship 338 Powell Street location in Vancouver, BC Canada and the roastery-coffee-shop is already winning design awards. This fall, the innovative minimalist folding carton Great Little Box Company helped them create, took first place and Judge’s Choice in its category at the AICC Independent Packaging Design Competition.

It’s a strong indicator of the kind of establishment Harken Coffee promises to be. Which is to say: a destination for delightfully unique experiences, driven by intentional design. Although their doors haven’t even opened yet—you’ll have to wait until January 2020—Harken knows who they want to be.

Eldric Stuart, Director of Operations, explains that while Harken’s concept isn’t completely unheard of in North America, it won’t be familiar to most coffee lovers. Their space will be an Australian-style blend of coffee shop and full-service restaurant. Featuring 16 seats of predominantly bar seating, guests will enjoy Japanese-inspired vegan menu items and across-the-bar service in addition to their specialty coffee.

And the Japanese-inspired approach isn’t a superficial or trendy touch. 338 Powell Street is, of course, in the heart of Vancouver’s Japantown. Once a neighbourhood filled with Japanese immigrants, Canada’s tragic period of internment camps cleared the area of its Japanese-owned businesses. That’s why Harken is taking pains to honour the neighbourhood’s history.

“The Heritage Society has put us in touch with two grandchildren of the area’s original business owners,” says Eldric. “They’ve been so helpful. Beyond our service style and menu, we’re planning exhibits and talks, and of course, we will participate in the Powell Street Festival- Canada’s largest Canadian Japanese-Canadian festival.”

When Eldric considers what Harken’s main challenges might be, they range from the logistical to the psychological. First of all, a vegan brunch destination is bound to be in high demand on the weekends. With only 16 seats, Harken will need to be creative with accommodating the long line ups that have become increasingly normal for Vancouver’s brunch crowds. Secondly, there is the matter of expectations around the coffee shop experience.

“With places like Chambar and Jam Café already flourishing in Vancouver, our concept isn’t totally out of left field,” says Eldric, “but we will be different from the typical 90s style coffee shop or fast food style Starbucks model people are familiar with. You won’t come into Harken, stand in a line, order your drink, and sit down to do homework.”

Design, once again, becomes a way for Harken to manage those expectations. The idea is for customers coming in, ready to plug their computers in, to find that they’re in a space that encourages a different experience. They’ll be seated across a bar from a barista who they can engage them in conversation like a bartender would. They’ll be exposed to a large glass wall through which they can watch the coffee roasting process. All of a sudden, the laptop will become a lot less compelling.

Harken Coffee

Of course, when it comes to creating an experience, each detail matters. That’s why we are honoured to be part of the meticulous process that results in the Harken difference. For example, the AICC award-winning box we helped them create was an exercise in exploring the artistry that’s possible with bespoke packaging. The carton, made from a sustainable paper substrate, appears to be seamless and features an eye-catching yet elegant gradient print. And when we say every detail matters, we mean it: even the box’s silky soft-touch finish evokes the texture of a high-end roast.

“GLBC was definitely very accommodating with that process,” laughs Eldric. “We asked for many samples, many iterations. Should we print on the side? Should we use cardstock? Should we change the flaps? They just kept bringing in more solutions.”

It’s the least we can do! We’re looking forward to the unveiling of a beautifully intentional design story we’re honoured to be part of. Be sure to check Harken Coffee out in January 2020.

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