When Beth Dempster wondered what to name her first coffee shop she received unequivocal advice: Find a short word that people will understand.

Instead, she chose Convivial because “it’s such a great word and I love it”. Conceding that “hardly anyone knows what it means”, she devotes half a wall in the cafe to the dictionary definition. If customers don’t know the word coming in, they certainly do going out.

Nothing could explain Beth better than that  name choice. She doesn’t follow the beaten track,
and she shares what she loves.

When you see Beth behind the counter in Leg-In-Boot Square’s Convivial Café, you wouldn’t know you’re watching a wilderness guide who worked almost 30 summers backpacking and canoeing in BC, primarily the West Coast Trail. Nor would you guess at her Forestry degree or her Master’s from the University of Waterloo’s School of Planning, nor her years as an Ontario researcher and journal editor. 

You might, however, recognize the Beth who worked as a camp cook in northern BC. Born and raised in Vancouver, she came home for good in 2015, calling upon that experience to reconnect with the business of feeding people. 

And she takes that seriously. Another half wall at Convivial sets out “pay it forward” sticky notes. Customers who can afford it pin up a donated amount for coffee or whatever, and customers who can’t, select what’s already paid for. Sunday dinners work on the same principle. Order a meal for yourself, or one for you and for someone else, or just for someone else, whoever it may be.  

Traditional Christmas dinners follow the same logic, though here neighbours also volunteer to help serve or provide home delivery.

Is all this effort worth it?

“It all works out somehow”, says Beth. “Community is important”.