- Written by Shelby Pedersen Shelby Pedersen
- Published: 15 December 2016 15 December 2016
Dmitri Martini has always had a love for food, but never thought owning his own restaurant was in his cards. Initially, Martini ended up working as a church youth counsellor. But now Martini is the owner of an independent coffee shop in the city of Airdrie where he is trying a few new things such as Kombucha tea and a wine bar at night.
“I was always involved in the cooking,” Martini says, as he tries to look back and remember where his love for food came from. “My dad, he’s Italian and my mom is Irish-English ... So I learned a lot from them.”
Martini always thought that his love for food would lead him to get his Red Seal — which would allow him to work as a chef across Canada. However, this wasn’t the case and instead he went to Bible college in Saskatchewan, following in his brother’s footsteps and leaving his dream of becoming a chef behind.
“I just thought, I need to get my head on straight so I’ll just take a year,” he says.
But for Martini a year turned into 17. Martini was offered a part-time job working with teens to help him through college which eventually led to a full-time job.
“I did that for several years to the point that the teenagers that I started with — let’s say they were in grade seven [then] — I was there so long that they were now married and having kids,” he says.
Eventually Martini decided that it was time to move on.
“I was kind of done with that as far as I wasn’t looking to move up in that world nor was I looking at kind of staying where I was at.”
Taking a fresh start
For Martini, this was a fresh start and he took the opportunity to get back to his dream. With his love for food, he started looking for ways to start a business. He met with the Airdrie economic development board and they told him about a location they were looking to put a coffee shop.
Martini considered a couple different options such as bringing the first Blends coffee to Alberta. But he felt that he needed something that would allow more room for his own creativity.
Martini’s wife, Rachel, says that kind of creativity and control is important to him.
“He would kind of go back and forth, but he always knew he loved to cook and loved to create and do that kind of stuff,” she says.
That led him to starting his own coffee shop.
“I just wondered, is it possible for me to just do this all by myself,” Martini says.
On June 10, 2015, he did just that, opening Sorso Coffee Co.
Martini felt intimidated doing this all by himself due to the fact that working at a church for 17 years never really gave him the chance to learn business.
“It was really scary because I have no business background,” he says. “I’ve never been educated that way; no marketing. I don’t have design, but I built this place. I sketched out every square inch of this on a paper.”
Although Sorso has only been open for a little over a year, Martini is eager to introduce new ideas to make his shop stand out. One of these concepts is the idea of a multi-roast café.
“So the concept that I have is that instead of having your one roaster that you use, I’m sourcing out all of the roasters that are respected from coast to coast in Canada.”
Martini has gone through almost every roaster in Canada and keeps them in his shop for a two-week cycle. Along with being a multi-roast café, Martini has also introduced the shop to Kombucha tea, a fermented tea that Martini says is “really becoming more popular” and “good for your gut health.”
Martini’s shop also turns into a wine bar at night and a tea shop with more than 30 teas. You can hear the excitement in his voice as he tries to describe all his concepts at once.
“So we’re kind of like this tea shop, coffee shop, Kombucha by day and then at five o’clock this place turns into a wine bar,” he says.
Bryan Low, who was until recently Martini’s pastry chef, says turning into a wine bar isn’t the only innovation at the coffee shop.
“We also have what’s called a breakfast Mack Daddy which has now become very popular for breakfast. Essentially a soft cooked egg on an English muffin and it comes 5 different ways,” Low says.
They believe that it is essential to keep being original and creative, and this is what will help them thrive.
Martini’s passion for his career is what inspires him to do what he does every day and he hopes to be able to share this with his community.
“I feel like in some ways I get to teach— if people are interested — a city about coffee and that’s cool.”