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HomeBusinessYoung entrepreneur brews new life into Bowmanville coffee scene

Young entrepreneur brews new life into Bowmanville coffee scene

On King Street in Bowmanville, a part of Clarington’s vibrant business district, a mix of coffee shops line the thoroughfare.

Among them, big global corporations like Starbucks stand shoulder to shoulder with independently owned cafes, many of which are steeped in local history and operated by seasoned business veterans.

However, Natalie Dookheran, the owner of RoamCoffee, is neither a long-standing business owner nor does she run a large multi-location franchise. At just 28, Dookheran is a new entrant into the industry and she owns a single cafe in Bowmanville that opened in 2020.

Born in North Carolina, Dookheran’s initial foray into the world of coffee began with a job at Starbucks when she was still in high school at the age of 16. Her career took a significant turn when she moved to California at the age of 18. In California, Dookheran says she spent her formative adult years immersing herself in the specialty of coffee scene.

She says that while in California she embraced the artistic aspects of coffee brewing, elevating it from a mere job to an art form.

California was also where she met her future husband, a Scarborough resident, leading to their decision to settle in Canada for its ease over California life, ultimately choosing to settle in Ajax.

Natalie Dookheran strikes a confident pose, captured against a backdrop of elegant white and beige curtains.
RoamCoffee was created by Natalie Dookheran in the year 2020. Since then, it has become a stable for the downtown Bowmanville markets, providing a pet friendly cafe experience for the community of Bowmanville and Durham.

Running a small business like RoamCoffee is fraught with challenges, but for Dookheran, the sense of community within the coffee industry is a significant motivator. She says the motivation mainly comes from “the collaborative nature of the coffee community.”

“Everywhere I have lived the coffee community has been good people,” she said.

Dookheran says she doesn’t see the coffee industry in Bowmanville as a space for competition but describes it more as a community that pushes each other to all mutually grow and improve their craft.

The local community aspect of a small coffee shop also serves as a significant motivator for Dookerhan. “Coffee can be such a local thing,” she said, adding that she hopes for a shift towards independent coffee shops over chain cafes.

Her coffee shop has become a witness to life’s milestones, from births to marriages, encapsulating the essence of community.

Like many small businesses in Durham Region, RoamCoffee was not immune to the pandemic challenges. Competing with giants like Tim Hortons presents another challenge, but Dookerhan sees it as an opportunity to educate customers on the value of a meticulously crafted cup of coffee.

As an immigrant and a young entrepreneur, Dookerhan acknowledges the steep learning curve she has faced. She said that when she arrived in Canada at the age of 25 she was unfamiliar with the Canadian job and business market.

“I’m definitely a dreamer, I’m full of grand dreams, visions and what I think can be so great and so cool.” Dookerhan said. “Implementing those things and being organized enough to implement those things have been a personal growth journey for me for sure.”

Despite the obstacles, Dookerhan takes pride in the community RoamCoffee has built, highlighted by a loyal base of regular customers. “I am so proud that we get to be a community,” she said.

Mary Lebel, a barista at RoamCoffee, finds working with Dookerhan rewarding given the shared learning journey in navigating a first business venture. “I am learning with her and she finds out new things, I find out new things. It’s been a learning experience,” she said.

Derek Chung(left) sits beside Trevor Xue(right) with Derek's dog Rex sitting between them.
Derek Chung(left) sits beside Trevor Xue(right) with Derek's dog Rex sitting between them. They both sit inside RoamCoffee discussing their day to day lives while drinking their coffee. Photo credit: Branden Rushton

Regulars like Trevor Xue appreciate the cafe’s spacious environment, ideal for families and pets. For Xue, it’s a place where his daughter can freely explore.

Derek Chung, another frequent customer, values the dog-friendly atmosphere.