KJ Coffee Bar

serves happiness with coffee and sourdough

When Karl Mancheron and his wife Joannie Parent decided to open KJ Coffee Bar in Okanagan Falls in 2016, they wanted to be in a community small enough that they would know their customers.

Oliver and Penticton were too big.

They’ve built their business around regular local customers rather than relying on the tourism season.

“I understand tourists bring good money, but they’re here only for one week a year,” Mancheron said. “I want people that will be here each day. We’ve got customers that are here each day and it’s just $3 for a coffee, but that’s why I’m here. It’s for those people.”

Karl Mancheron and his wife Joannie Parent are owners of KJ Coffee Bar. The KJ in their name comes from the first initial of their first names. (Richard McGuire Photo)
Karl Mancheron and his wife Joannie Parent are owners of KJ Coffee Bar. The KJ in their name comes from the first initial of their first names. (Richard McGuire Photo)
Karl Mancheron flips doughnuts as he prepares a batch for Wednesday customers at KJ Coffee Bar. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Today their shop on Highway 97 is known for its quality organic coffee and handmade bread, including the popular sourdough loaves they sell on Friday mornings.

Mancheron, a skilled chef, realized that the high-class restaurant business was not a lifestyle conducive to a good family life. So he made the decision to take a cut in pay, and to work in a business that gave him time for his family.

“I had my daughter and wife at home with a newborn,” he recalls of the year before they started KJ Coffee Bar. “I almost lost my wife and my daughter. I had to work a lot, but it didn’t bring us any happiness. It was long hours, and I would have preferred to be at home with my family.”

Now he enjoys what he does so it no longer feels like working, and he uses a secret ingredient in his food – love.

Mancheron, 40, and Parent, 36, are both originally from Quebec. He is from Chicoutimi in the Saguenay region north of Quebec City, and she is from Trois-Rivières on the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and Quebec.

Some quiche awaits hungry mouths. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Mancheron was from a family of chefs, but he dreamed of going into quantum physics until he discovered early on that he would need a lab worth millions of dollars. He became a certified mechanic instead.

More than 20 years ago, his life hit a low point and he ended up living on the street for almost two years.

One freezing cold night in Montreal he was staying at the Salvation Army. A young woman with a two-weeks-old baby showed up, but there were no beds for her, so Mancheron gave her his.

He took shelter under the exhaust hood of a hotel restaurant for warmth.

“I was starving,” he recalls. “The whole night I was surrounded by the aroma of steak and fries, and I had an idea that I should do what I was doing when I was younger and working as a dishwasher. I would have access to food.”

He landed a job as a dishwasher where he received accommodation and food. He worked hard, and after a while his chef offered him work in the kitchen doing food preparation. Four years later, he’d worked his way into a chef position at an expensive restaurant where he learned the ropes – and fell in love with cooking.

He’d always dreamt of going to the Rocky Mountains, so one day in 2004, he decided to sell everything and hitchhike to Lake Louise. There he pursued his career as a chef.

Joannie Parent and Karl Mancheron stand in front of KJ Coffee Bar on 9th Avenue in Okanagan Falls. (Richard McGuire Photo)

“I didn’t speak a word of English when I moved there,” he said. “It was a steep learning curve and not even a year later I was bilingual.”

A few years later, he moved on to Banff and Canmore. It was in Canmore that he met his wife, Joannie, when she helped his new roommate move in. She’d never worked in a kitchen before, but he got her a job working with him as a dishwasher and later as sous chef.

“She started working for me and fell in love with cooking, so I decided to take her under my wing and train her,” Mancheron said. “She was so good I decided to marry her, and we’ve been together since.”

Mancheron was impressed by the cases of fresh produce from the Okanagan for his restaurant and he decided to move to the source. He worked as an assistant agronomist in Okanagan Falls between 2012 and 2014, taking a break from his career as a chef.

He and Parent moved to Oliver in 2015 and he took a job for a season at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery. After that, he took a cut in pay and went to work at Dogtown Coffee Company at the present location of KJ Coffee Bar. The following year, when Dogtown closed, the couple started their own business.

They now have three staff working for them and helping with the baking and making meat pies. And they deliver lunches made from scratch to the elementary school on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Mancheron takes special pride in the sourdough bread that’s been one of the biggest successes. It all comes from a sourdough starter that began on their first day in business.

“It’s like a pet,” he says of the jar of starter. “It’s got a name. We feed it twice a week. We produce 50 or 60 loaves of sourdough on Friday.”

They also do other breads each day – white on Mondays, whole wheat on Tuesdays, cranberry flax seed on Wednesdays, and a chef’s feature bread on Thursdays.

Karl Mancheron pours a cup of Cherry Hill hand-roasted organic coffee at KJ Coffee Bar. (Richard McGuire Photo)

They’ve also resumed making doughnuts for their Wednesday customers.

The certified organic hand-roasted coffee comes from Cherry Hill Coffee in Kelowna, a family-run business that sources quality coffee around the world.

“I serve happiness with coffee,” said Mancheron. “I’ve never had any complaints and that is my paycheque. What’s best in the morning is to start the day with a good coffee and a good laugh.”

Hours of operation

Monday – Friday

8:00 AM – 2:00 PM

Contact

PHONE

(778) 515-6502

Address

5121 9 Avenue
Okanagan Falls, BC V0H 1R4