Renovations planned for cafe after winning national co-operative contest

NANAIMO – Cedar Opportunities Co-operative expanding cafe with cash won in national contest.

CoCo Cafe staff and volunteers have bought a lot more elbow room and space for catering services with cash won in a national contest.

The Cedar Opportunities Co-operative came into a $25,000 windfall Oct. 28 when it won the Co-operators National Co-op Challenge, which awards annual prizes across Canada to support the success of winning co-ops and encourage their growth. Winners are chosen through a month-long social media contest.

CoCo Cafe, located in Cedar, was founded in 2010 to provide employment for people with developmental challenges and has become a popular destination for residents in the Cedar/Yellow Point region south of Nanaimo.

That popularity means it gets pretty crowded in the cafe, so staff have been eyeing up some adjoining retail space to move some of the cafe’s kitchen and catering preparation equipment into.

“We’re using the money to renovate 600 square feet next door to us,” said Sydni Dines, general manager. “We’ve already taken down the wall and we’re working on having a walk-in fridge and freezer built for more space. It’s just opening up the area that we have, so we’re not touching shoulders all the time, which can be a little bit hard on people who have space issues and things like that.”

The added room will mean more kitchen space for the staff to move around in and customers will benefit too, since freezers currently taking up space in the dining room will be moved next door as well, clearing the way for more seating.

The room will also provide additional office and storage space.

CoCo Cafe currently has a staff of more than 20 people, 12 of whom have developmental challenges.

Patricia Johnston, a CoCo board founding member, said by expanding the catering section, the co-operative hopes to provide an additional 40 hours of employment per week.

For more information, please visit the co-operative’s website at