Beloved Café Morala transitions to Happy Goat

Miriam Rangel’s beloved Café Morala in the Glebe has transitioned to Happy Goat for greater support and stability, but it’s still serving great coffee and fantastic Mexican-inspired foods.   Photos: Ali Adwan

By Ali Adwan

As the age-old saying goes, the only constant in life is change. For Café Morala, that means a new name – Happy Goat Coffee Company – and the wider choice of coffees and drinks offered by the company it has joined.

But some things will remain constant. Miriam Rangel will continue to own and operate the café and serve her famous empanadas and Mayan chocolate cookies. She says the new affiliation is an effort to boost her business after a slump that started during COVID-19 lockdowns.

“This is sort of an infusion,” she said in an interview. “After 20 years of doing this, I just needed to rebrand myself.”

Happy Goat will lend Rangel its higher profile, give her a social media presence she didn’t have on her own and help expand and improve the drinks she offers, which she admits “were never great.”

“It’s incredible,” she said, “it’s a whole different world of coffee. With their support, we’re being trained to make better coffee.”

The café opened 20 years ago when Rangel and her husband at the time, Henry Assad, bought the location from Morala Trading, a coffee machine supplier. Prior to purchasing, the couple used to go to the café as a treat every weekend when it only served coffee and waffles. It inspired Assad to want to run his own café.

“What’s great is that the café is probably the first speciality coffee shop in all of Ottawa,” Assad said. Rangel, who has Mexican roots, decided to keep the Spanish name Morala.

After running the café for more than a decade, Rangel and Assad split up, and she became sole proprietor of Morala. Assad got into the coffee business as well and is now co-owner of Happy Goat, which has 13 locations in Ottawa and one in Kelowna, B.C. The couple remained friends, and that was crucial when it came to rebranding Morala by joining Assad’s Happy Goat chain, an idea they’d been discussing for several years.

“I was actually the one who asked Henry for support and so far, he’s been really great,” says Rangel. “I feel very happy and more supported.”

The final impetus for change was the pandemic. Morala could only do takeout. Staff left. The lifting of restrictions brought a brief boom, then business slumped again.

“I couldn’t do much,” says Rangel. “I had no workers, and I didn’t know what to do. I needed someone to be there as a support system.”

Assad says the key to growing a business these days is social media, something that Rangel couldn’t do well on her own but is a priority at Happy Goat. “Staying up-to-date with the community and letting people know what we’re up to is crucial,” he says.

Amid hopes the new branding will draw new customers, Rangel aims to keep them with the food she does so well – her empanadas, wraps and desserts are all a product of her creative mind, with a distinct Spanish taste because of her Mexican background.

“I really wanted to create,” she says. “I started with my own mix of hot chocolate and from there I started creating mixes for items I wanted to sell. The empanadas, for example, were a collaboration between myself and my chef who’s Bolivian.”

Rangel is confident that Glebites will keep coming, no matter what name is hanging out front. “I am very thankful for this community. They’re very supportive.”

Moving forward, all parties are excited and optimistic for the future and the success that this new partnership will bring. “At the end of the day, what’s most important is the well-being of the café,” said Assad. “Whether it’s called Café Morala or Happy Goat. . .people will still love it.”

Ali Adwan is a third-year journalism student at Carleton University

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