Extraordinary Commitment, Extraordinary Coffee – Isabelle et Pierre Tardiveau

It must be said: walking into Kingston’s SENS Café is like stepping into France, beginning with the cafe’s natural stone and black-accented exterior. The interior aesthetic is an inviting blend of exposed brick and stone walls, warm lighting, thoughtfully arranged seating, and open space. By design, a visit to SENS Café is to comfortably slip into the quintessential French cafe lifestyle.

But what makes SENS Café truly stand out, and makes owners Pierre and Isabelle deserved winners of the Newcomer Entrepreneur Award, is the coffee. It’s the product of a rare degree of commitment and the pursuit of excellence. Just as slow coffee-making methods produce a remarkable brew, successful entrepreneurship is a thoughtful, all-consuming process. The couple understood that coffee isn’t just coffee, and that success in an established market requires more than investment in equipment and location. This led to Pierre spending well over a year researching and absorbing the nuances of café management, while training in Aix-en-Provence at BBS Barista Bartender School. “I went back to school just to learn how to make good coffee, especially specialty coffee.” Having left their previous careers behind, they divided the myriad tasks of running a busy cafe along complementary lines, with Isabelle handling operations and Pierre managing coffee-making and market development. Ready for business, they opened the Barista Café in Annecy, “the pearl of the French Alps,” in 2014.

The major assets in any business are the people. As long as you know how you want to do it, and if you have the support of the right people, it just takes time to be successful.

In 2018, now committed entrepreneurs to the last drop and curious about life outside France, Isabelle and Pierre’s next move was decidedly bold: they emigrated to Canada. “We sold everything in France to restart something completely new in Canada,” says Isabelle. “It was a complete break from our previous life,” The benefits were clear: bringing their French-inspired café concept to a new market eager for quality and specialty coffee offered clear advantages. Says Pierre, “We bring something different: a European touch or French touch which I think people really like when coming to SENS.” Today, the café is established and growing, with an eye-catching menu featuring a range of specialty coffees – including espressos, lattes, and cappuccinos – crafted from carefully selected beans and expertly prepared. Freshly baked pastries, gourmet sandwiches, and seasonal salads are as enticing as the drinks.

What we like specifically in Canada is the diversity of the people. People come from everywhere; that’s something that we really like.

The couple and their three children are now proud members of the community and enthusiastically praise the city, describing it as an ideal size with a wide range of attractions and activities for families, from shows at the Grand Theatre to sports facilities. Pierre and Isabelle note the helpful role of business services, “In Kingston, you have various organizations that are really efficient and involved in supporting new businesses and newcomers.” Local café owners know one another, and fill various geographic and market niches, “Instead of competitors, we are much more colleagues or friends. We share the market, and we work really well together,” Pierre says.

Beyond discovering award-winning entrepreneurial success, the Tardiveaus appreciate Kingston’s typical warmth, saying, “What surprised us the most when we moved to Kingston was to realize how welcoming the people are.”