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Elora Airbnb turning into cafe supporting human trafficking survivors

'Somebody showing up and buying coffee from us, having a drink, having some food with a friend is making a difference, their purchases actually matter:' says Wild Ginger Coffee owner
Twila Erb, owner of Wild Ginger Coffee, is turning this former Airbnb in Elora into a cafe.

ELORA – A wild Elmira-based coffee company is taking up shop in Elora by converting a former Airbnb into a full-fledged cafe with a focus on using business for a greater good. 

Twila Erb is the owner and red-haired namesake behind Wild Ginger Coffee and is in the process of opening The Wild and Free Cafe in Elora. 

The business, first launched in 2020, sells transparent trade coffee from Burundi but also has a focus on helping women escape human trafficking.

“It was kind of two passions colliding, I was learning about human trafficking and wanting to do something to step into that space and help,” Erb said in an interview at 58 Geddes St., a former Airbnb in Downtown Elora. “I thought ‘well a good way to do that would be through business.’”

Erb is not against doing this through charity but said she sees raising money for organizations working with women escaping human trafficking through business as more sustainable. 

“When you look at even the nonprofit sector and charity organizations, a lot of it is underpaid and everyone’s burning out and this does not seem to be a sustainable model,” Erb said. 

She sees the business model as a chance for people to be involved in smaller, more manageable ways. 

“Somebody showing up and buying coffee from us, having a drink, having some food with a friend is making a difference, their purchases actually matter,” she said.

Around the same time Erb was learning about the scope of human trafficking and its impacts locally, she was learning about good coffee and in her opinion found the coffee in Burundi to be best. 

It took some time to find the right exporter, which was important to Erb because “there’s no point in using your funds to help those who have been exploited while exploiting others in the process.”

Now, she’s working on the next step in opening a storefront cafe. Originally she looked in Millbank and even had a space ready to be leased but this fell through because the space didn’t end up being right for the business. 

After nearly being ready to throw in the towel, she heard from the man who bought the place and will be leasing to the business that he had found a suitable spot in Elora. 

“I’ve always pictured it in a house because I just think if you want people to walk into a space and feel at home, how much easier is that when it is a home or was a home,” Erb said.

The menu has not been finalized but Erb plans to source ingredients and products locally. She also intends to keep the cafe open into the evening.

“We’ve noticed there’s nowhere to get a good cup of coffee (in Elora) after 4 p.m. so we will have some evening hours,” Erb said. 

There’s a lot of work to be done before then to turn what was once an Airbnb into a cafe including moving a shed into the back to be usable, renovate the kitchen, take out some walls and redoing the bathrooms. She’s hoping to open the business in early 2025. 

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Keegan Kozolanka

About the Author: Keegan Kozolanka

Keegan Kozolanka is a general assignment reporter for EloraFergusToday, covering Wellington County. Keegan has been working with Village Media for more than two years and helped launch EloraFergusToday in 2021.
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