Columbus Café Partners with Indigo to Open In-Store Locations Across Ontario and Quebec [Interview]

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France-based Columbus Café & Co, with its authentic Parisian experience, is launching its first Toronto location and expanding its Canadian footprint in partnership with retail giant Indigo Books & Music Inc. to open 11 Indigo and Chapters locations across Ontario and Quebec, with six cafes opening in 2023.

Simon Plante, Vice-President of Development in Canada for the brand, said the first store in Toronto is a standalone location at 283 Adelaide Street. It is located in the PJ Condos residential development. 

The company has 11 locations in Quebec. 

Columbus Cafe at 283 Adelaide Street West in Toronto (Image: Columbus Cafe)

“We position ourselves as the coolest coffee shop in the industry,” said Plante. “If you walk into the store, the Columbus Café, you will see a unique design. We have a very special vibe, very young, urban, very cozy and warm as well.

Simon Plante

“We have Parisian bistro chairs because the chain was founded in France in 1994. So we bring a little bit of France into the concept. And you can feel it in the recipes as well. For example, all of the players in this industry have a breakfast sandwich with eggs and bacon which we also offer but in our breakfast sandwich there’s also dijon mustard. In every recipe, there’s a French twist to it.”

Plante said it was natural to start the brand in Canada in Quebec because of the shared language and cultural similarities. 

“We wanted to establish in Quebec and so the next natural step is of course Ontario because it’s the largest market in Canada. People have a lot of money to invest. Consumers have lots of money to spend in restaurants. The population is growing. The economy is very strong in Ontario as well,” he said. “So for us it was the next natural thing to do.”

Plante said Columbus has signed for 11 locations within Indigo and Chapters with six of them to open this year.

Columbus Cafe has used Tony Flanz and his team at Think Retail for its Canadian real estate needs.

Future Columbus Cafe at Indigo in CF Toronto Eaton Centre (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

“The first ones to open will be in Cambridge, Barrie and CF Toronto Eaton Centre,” he said. Those are all within Indigo stores. 

Most of the new openings will be in Ontario in the next two years except for one which will be Quartier DIX30, a commercial lifestyle centre located in Brossard, Quebec.

“Most of them will have their own exterior entrance that have signage on the facade of the shopping centre. We’re going to have our own patio as well,” said Plante.

He said the company doesn’t have a final number yet of how many locations it will eventually partner with Indigo/Chapters on. 

“The goal is to do as many as we can,” added Plante. “I think Indigo has the same feeling. We have a really strong relationship.

“We are also considering expansion in Western Canada. So there will be more opportunities moving forward.” That will include both standalone locations and partnerships with Indigo/Chapters. 

“We are very excited to open in Ontario. I think this partnership with Indigo is a great opportunity for us to show our brand to people. In the last 12 months we have lost one or two good locations in Toronto because the landlord decided to go with another tenant simply because they didn’t know what Columbus is. But now thanks to this partnership a lot more people will know what Columbus is and people will fall in love with the brand and the concept.”

Columbus Café & Co in Montreal (Image: Columbus Café & Co)

The first North American café debuted on Mont-Royal Avenue in Montreal in 2020.

It was founded in 1994. The brand grew because of its premium coffee products and varied menu—sandwiches, salads and Buddha bowls, plus an array of quality baked goods and sweet treats—housed in modern inviting spaces where customers can enjoy a quick bite or linger with friends over coffee and a meal. 

In 2001, the company opened its first café outside of France—in Brussels—and three decades after its inception, Columbus Café & Co operates more than 200 locations across France and internationally.

Jim McLellan

“We are excited to join forces with Columbus Café & Co Canada to bring this amazing Parisian café experience to the Indigo community,” said Jim McLellan, VP Real Estate, Indigo. “I am confident that Columbus Cafe & Co’s gourmet food and drink will further elevate our customers’ experience as they shop for their next great read or gift for a friend or loved one.”

Maxime Mayant

”We’re delighted to partner with Indigo, a beloved Canadian company that shares the same values as we do,” said Maxime Mayant, President of Columbus Café & Co Canada. “We are excited to create a new experience and further elevate the shopping experience at Indigo.”

Columbus Cafe at Carrefour Laval (Image: Think Retail)

Columbus Café & Co will be opening at the following Indigo and Chapters locations:

● Indigo Cambridge (Ontario)

● Indigo Barrie (Ontario)

● Indigo Toronto Eaton Centre (Ontario)

● Indigo Brossard (Quebec)

● Chapters Vega (Ontario)

● Indigo Erin Mills (Ontario)

● Indigo Thunder Bay (Ontario, 2024)

● Indigo Kanata (Ontario, 2024)

● Indigo Heritage Greene – Stoney Creek (Ontario, 2024)

● Chapters Newmarket (Ontario, 2024)

● Chapters Belleville (Ontario, 2024)

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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