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Beloved founder of Waves Coffee House empire dies in car crash

Founder of New West-based company immigrated to Canada and then sponsored other families over the years to give back.
kami rhamati
Kami Rahmati was the founder of the Waves coffee house company, which has its head office in New Westminster where it operates 27 stores in B.C. and Alberta,.

When Kayvan Rahmati is asked about the impact his father Kami had on people’s lives, he takes a long pause, steadies himself and then answers.

“I’m his son and even I’m still learning about all the lives he’s touched,” Kayvan said Tuesday after the death of his father in a car crash in Pitt Meadows on March 5. “As word has spread, we’ve been approached by so many people who are sharing stories of how he has affected them.”

Kami was the founder of the Waves coffee house company, which has its head office in New Westminster where it operates 27 stores in B.C. and Alberta, with two more set to up this year and six more planned in places as far as Whistler and Kelowna.

Kayvan said his father was all about making people feel good and welcome.

“That’s why he called the company Waves,” Kayvan said. “He just wanted to wave at people to come in and be happy. I can’t believe he’s gone.”

Kami immigrated to Canada in 1991 from Iran. His first job was as a dishwasher; then he bought a car and got a job delivering pizza for Pizza Hut.

Those first years weren’t easy and so when he found financial success, he paid it forward by sponsoring about 30 families from Iran over the years, Kayvan said, with many of them living with the Rahmati family for months at a time as they found their footing in Canada.

In 1996, he bought a Robin’s Donuts.

“When I came to Canada I said, ‘I have to be a strong person here,’” Rahmati said in an interview with Glacier Media’s Business in Vancouver.

Rahmati then started Waves Coffee House in 2005, at first intending to run it with his son as a single coffee shop but later franchising the business.

Rahmati said in the previous interview that his philosophy was to do everything for the customer, and treat franchisees “like family.”

“I did everything from my heart – quality, customer service,” he said. “I wanted to make sure the customer walked out the door with a smile.” 

“I love what I do,” he added. “To me commitment is the key, to do it right. It’s not all about money. If a friend comes to your house, how are you going to make your friend happy and enjoy one or two hours in your house?”

“My goal is they all be ‘mini-Kamis,’” he said about how each franchise should be run.

Apart from business, his passion was for the sport of soccer, even buying his own over-55 league, said Kayvan, who often played the sport with his father.

With additional reporting by Business in Vancouver