If you like coffee and work near Lawrence Avenue in downtown Kelowna you've probably met Duncan. Free Wifi, all-day breakfast and a familiar face are some of the draws that bring regular customers to Duncan's Bistro and Bar.
But in two weeks the cafe will be looking a little different. Under the new name "O-Lake Coffee and Bistro" you will find a similar menu – but less Duncan.
After three years running the shop, Duncan Kowk says he's turning the business over to new owners.
“It will be some adjustment, I'll tell you that” he says. When the offer came up he decided at 58-years-old it was time to retire.
“I've got a grandson now, and have my parents to take care of,” he says.
“But I'll probably be down here quite a bit, to have a coffee to say 'hi guys, how are you doing?', that kind of stuff.”
It's not the first Kowk says he's tried to retire.
Before opening Duncan's Bistro he owned and operated six hot dog concession stands along Bernard Avenue and knows first-hand some of the challenges of running a successful business in downtown Kelowna. When first opening Duncan's Bistro he knew he had to offer something different.
"Atmosphere is everything in a coffee shop,” he says. "I think people go to the little ma and pa operations like we have because of the personality there."
For example, having a liquor license gives his customers a different kind of ambiance than other coffee shops.
"If you were coming in to use the Wifi you could have a Bailey's latte on the patio,” he says. Fresh food is another feature that sets the cafe apart from neighbouring competitors like Starbucks.
"We go through the trouble to actually make the food here. It's fresh peppers, fresh lettuce; we don't get bins of pre-done anything,” he says. "It's a lot more work but I think it gives you that difference."
The new chef for O-Lake Coffee Shop is taking notes and plans to maintain Duncan's quality of service, eventually expanding the menu to include appetizers, desserts and local wines during after hours service.
O-Lake will be the fifth business to open its doors in the building on the corner of Pandosy Street and Lawrence Avenue. Constructed back in 2000 it's one of downtown's newer buildings and Kowk says it's seen many succesful food establishments through the years, beginning with the Verve.
"It was quite well known and later on became the Metro, then it became JJ's cafe, then Duncan's and now it's going to be O-Lake," he says
Local customers working, studying and shopping in the area will ultimately decide how successful the new cafe will be.
"It's a four block radius – 95 per cent of the people are working within that radius. We have a lot of banks, lawyers' offices, professional and government offices, all within that area,” Kowk says.
Of those customers, Kowk says he's made dozens of friendships.
"It's a people business," he says."They're nice people and you talk to them.”
To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250)718-0428.