A new player seems to be entering the Vancouver coffee market – Blaq Sheep Fine Coffee. Although they have a website, it does not do any justice to the actual brand experience which indicates further that something is bubbling under the surface. For example, on the day of this post, you can go through most pages of their website and not come across their very cool logo of the sheep. Yet, a quick search the image section of a major search engine will reveal a more accurate display of their shops, signage, and branding in general.
So what is a black sheep? Turning to the never-failing and always true Wikipedia we read that a black sheep is usually a negative term of someone who doesn’t fit in or has gone wayward. Essentially, it’s someone awkward, eccentric, or ‘too unique’ who doesn’t fit in with the crowd. But don’t forget that Jesus left the herd to go and find the one sheep that went sideways. Jesus cared deeply about the one black sheep. The most well-read book in the history of the world, the Bible, constantly teaches that it’s not wise to follow the herd (those who surround you) because they are heading towards destruction.
But what does this mean in the Vancouver coffee industry?
This means opportunity.
Vancouver is saturated up the yin-yang and out the other side with coffee shops, but if you ask espresso drinkers where the good coffee is, there aren’t too many enthusiastic replies. In a land with so many coffee shops (and sushi shops while we’re at it), most of them seem to fit under a handful of brands. When you get out of the Kitsilano, Gastown, Main Street or the Commercial Drive ‘coffee zones’, the story gets even worse. So, for a city that has so many coffee shops, there is a surprisingly low number of either extremely high quality shops, or shops that are stepping out on a limb to be different. Most of them are slight variations of each other but following a very similar model of Italian espresso drinks with some pastries and the odd panini – nothing wrong with that and there is probably good arguments against breaking what might not be broken, but where are the boat-rockers or the feather-rufflers?
Blaq Sheep Fine Coffee, on the other hand, appears to be totally separating themselves from the herd. Our first reports are that they have a ‘very good coffee’, unique and good food program, and a decent selection of alcoholic drinks coupled with a unique atmosphere. Their slogan on their sandwich board ‘Outstanding in our Field’ right under their logo should be both entertaining to the customer, but a concern to competitors. It’s a bold statement of who they are and what they are planning.
It will be interesting to learn more about their products, their business model and ‘black sheepness’ of their branding as they grow from two locations.