Higher Ground is a staple “hub” in the eclectic Kensington community. It’s the place where writers, politicians, business men and women and artists of all kinds get their daily fix of caffeine and interesting conversation – and has been this way since its inception in 1982.
Family man and entrepreneur, John Nicastro and his wife, Giovanna recently purchased Higher Ground two years ago. John is no stranger to owning a business. He’s owned a custom boutique home building company for the past 11 years and grew up in a family that owned the popular neighbourhood Italian market, Nicastro Italian Foods, in Bridgeland, since 1969. Inside the market was a 25 seat cozy cappuccino bar, the inviting nook where John was first introduced to coffee and the coffee industry.
“I’ve always loved the vibe of Kensington, as a consumer.”
John’s decision to purchase Higher Ground came when a business contact told him about the opportunity. Higher Ground has such a strong following in the neighbourhood, so John kept its original name as well as its “green” business practices. This includes the philosophy of being environmentally friendly. They don’t offer water bottles, only serve organic teas, utilize local farmers and all of their cakes are made locally.
“The networking and support from the community has been great – I was the new guy, and I was very well received”
Higher Ground and The Daily are grateful for the support they’ve received from their new business neighbours. John is a big advocate of giving back to the community and every donation letter/request Higher Ground has received they have supported or donated towards the cause.
“The previous owner did a wonderful job creating Higher Ground, there are things you do and implement to make it your own, to put your “stamp on it.”
The bustling coffee shop see’s approximately 600-800 people per day, and not only serves some local celebrities, but the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Emma Watson and Rick Mercer have also enjoyed the delicious drinks and eats at the shop!
The next step for both Higher Ground and the Nicastro’s came from requests by the Kensington community. Two Higher Ground staff members surveyed people shopping the neighbourhood on what was needed to enhance Kensington. The answer: A family-friendly breakfast restaurant.
“The Kensington community told us what they wanted, and we responded to that – therefore that’s how The Daily was made”
Designed by Korr Designs and Giovanna Nicastro, The Daily brings New York City’s Tribeca neighbourhood vibe, with its bright décor and warm, inviting presence. The breakfast and lunch menu is curated by their talented head chef, who previously owned a breakfast food truck in YYC. It includes mouth-watering items such as the breakfast poutine, peppered pear flatbread, and the delicious breakfast in a glass, with fresh house-made granola, Greek yogurt, local honey, chia seed, seasonal fruit coulis, fresh fruit.
“The Daily serves an uncompromisingly fresh breakfast and lunch menu featuring naturally raised and locally sourced ingredients”
Although they are staying focused on their current businesses, they have had requests to franchise Higher Ground into neighbourhoods such as Mission!
John’s final feedback for fellow Kensington business owners,
“Give your customers value. People need to feel like they’ve gotten value and are appreciated!”