In the story there are two wolves and one question.
The bad wolf is envy, ego and greed. The good wolf is compassion, humility and hope.
The question isn’t so much, Which wolf will win?, although that’s part of it. The question is: Which wolf will you feed?
In a small, almost-ready-to-open coffee shop on the 1300-block of Dominion Avenue in Port Coquitlam, that question is top-of-mind for Jerrica Hackett.
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That story is why she decided to call her place the Good Wolf Café & Co. Geographically, the café is a five-minute drive from the corrections centre where Hackett used to work. It’s also nearly a lifetime away.
Having grown up in Maple Ridge, Hackett remembers working in a café/catering company when she was 12 years old.
“I didn’t love it at the time but later, as I grew, I think I appreciated all the small businesses that I worked for along the way,” she says.
She might’ve started her own business but, after a little university, Hackett applied to B.C. Corrections.
“It was such a good government job with those steady paychecks and a union and everything like that, that kind of dream of opening a business went to the wayside,” she notes.
Which wolf will you feed?
Between jobs in both Port Coquitlam and Maple Ridge, Hackett spent about nine years working in corrections before, as she puts it, “My heart outgrew the bounds of the job.”
Corrections offers steady work, she says, but there’s more to it than that.
“Working in that field, you kind of lose yourself a bit,” she explains. “The unfortunate thing about corrections is that they become a catch-all for every group that society has failed.”
Hackett talks about the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the prison system and how the closures of mental health facilities led to more people with severe mental health needs being incarcerated.
Some incarcerated people, usually people suffering comparably lower levels of anxiety and depression, tend to get ignored, Hackett recalls. People with more severe problems tend to get carted back and forth between facilities in a continuing, dispiriting cycle.
Hackett read The Tale of Two Wolves while she was working in corrections. It changed her, she says.
“It kind of inspired me to really change the way I worked with inmates, to be more compassionate. To help more. That’s when I started tutoring people.”
She started helping inmates graduate high school. But whatever they did when they were inside, they faced the same barren realities when they were out.
“When I’m trying to find them resources to get back on the street, there’s no options. The B.C. Housing list takes people two-to-three years, so no one in remand’s getting B.C. Housing,” Hackett says. “So, what we’re doing is we’re giving them a taxi ride off the property and a list of local shelters.”
The pandemic stultifies, inspires
After nine years, Hackett left corrections. Following a stint managing a halfway house for the Phoenix Society, she found a small spot just off Lougheed Highway and remembered what she really wanted to do, even if there was a pandemic in progress.
“The pandemic . . . in the beginning it kind of squashed my dreams,” she says.
But after two years, the pandemic gave her the impetus to start her business.
“If anything, this has taught me that life’s too short and you have to go for your dreams,” she says. “My bigger dream for the Good Wolf is to be a larger space where I can have mental health workshops and recovery nights and little mini-TED talks and open mic nights.”
Hackett says she plans to offer coffee from Spirit Bear Coffee Company, a Port Coquitlam-based Indigenous-owned company and to work with Rocky Mountain Tisane Company spearheaded by a Port Moody entrepreneur.
“I would also like to hire people facing barriers to employment: mental health needs, criminal records, history of addiction,” Hackett says.
As Hackett gets the shop ready for that to-be-announced opening day, she describes her routine as: “Googling things, guessing, trying, failing, trying again.”
Asked why she decided on a café, Hackett talks about the importance of building a community.
“Coffee and food bring people together,” she says. “It’s really just kind of like a canvas for a way to spread positivity in the community.”
The space is small, she acknowledges. But if her message resonates, it will grow.
“Start small,” she advises. “And build the dream as you go.”