When customers walk into Empress Theatre Emporium, they can expect to be surprised by an ever-changing decorum including new pictures on the wall or the addition of a unique antique worthy of being a conversation piece.
Some things, however, never change.
The smiling, friendly faces of the staff and the delicious selection of mouth-watering homemade soups and pies, salads, paninis, ice cream, smoothies and specialty drinks remain constant.
James and Patti Penner, who own the Empress Theatre Emporium, are pleased their little coffee shop won the Rimbey chamber of commerce’s new business of the year award.
“We have awesome staff,” said Patti Penner. “Really, we expected them to win, not us,” added her husband, James.
The Penners opened their business in May 2014 and say “it just keeps getting busier and busier.”
They opened the coffee shop because they felt there was a niche for such a business in Rimbey.
It turns out they were right.
The couple, which operated a daycare in Calgary before moving to Rimbey, was excited to open the coffee shop as they share an entrepreneurial spirit. Running a new business is not without its challenges, but the Penners learned as they went along, adapting and changing the menu and the décor as they saw a need.
“We always try to incorporate new ideas and try new things,” said James.
“We visit other coffee places to check them out,” added his wife.
The secret garden created by James behind the coffee shop is not much of a secret anymore. The quiet, serene setting, complete with a little pond with a fountain in one corner is filled with flowers and small tables and provides a quaint and tranquil hideaway for anyone seeking solitude or an intimate lunch or coffee break with friends.
Opening a small business in a small town may not be an easy venture, but, as with any dream and vision, if one has an entrepreneurial business, is willing to think outside the box and can see where there is a niche it can happen.
“It’s been good,” said the Penners. “We have great regulars now and even if our staff doesn’t know your name, they know what you like.”
James and Patti Penner have four children and eight grandchildren.
Also nominated for new business of the year was Jemco Feeds, Jeweller Next Door/Ammonite World, Magic Suds Truck Wash Inc. and Mini Me Clothing & Accessories.