BY BILL RUBIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Coffee has ushered in a new era of consumer spending, whether it’s in pursuit of fresh-roasted beans, flavored grounds, bigger and bigger mugs, brick and mortar stores, or main street diners serving the finest selections from Ecuador or Costa Rica.
Toney and fashionable Edina, Minnesota was in the news a while back when its city council gave preliminary approval to a new Caribou Coffee shop. The news? When the shop opens, it will be the tenth Caribou store in Edina, which already boasts eight Starbucks and a single Dunn Bros Coffee. More news. . . the proposed Caribou will replace an existing 5,000 square foot Jiffy Lube, making it a teardown in the name of progress. And caffeine.
Locally, two brothers and a high school friend have a small but growing empire of coffee shops in the St. Croix Valley. Their franchised stores include two in Hudson, one in Stillwater, and the newest in New Richmond. Add in a sandwich and soup shop and they’ve got their hands full managing associates, customers, beans, grounds, and their bottom line.
Society has come a long way in its embrace of coffee. A tough-as-nails WWII vet from southern Minnesota only knew coffee one way – percolated from a pot laced with Folgers® brand grounds. Top it with condensed milk as a creamer (gulp) and the world was safe until at least mid-morning when another round was consumed from a thermos.
Convenience stores may have been late to the caffeine party. There is money to be made in coffee products when numerous blends are available, as found in c-stores. Coolers in the c-stores also feature the latest coffee-based products, allowing for more choices on the same spin. Even grocery stores are aligned with franchised coffee conglomerates. A jittery shopper pushing a cart in aisle three may have the same hair trigger tendencies as a motorist navigating rush hour traffic on the highway.
The younger generation from a North Hudson, Wisconsin neighborhood is occasionally rewarded with a coffee/caffeine stop from a drive-through lane. The menu board is cryptic. English may be spoken when orders are placed, but neither the driver nor the payer (i.e. the same adult) comprehends. Hot, iced, cold pressed, double shot, caramel, vanilla, espresso, or latte . . . it all amounts to the same – I scream, you scream, we all scream for caffeine.
Here’s to coffee. Here’s to the coffee shop owners and franchisees. Here’s to the local roasters and wholesalers. Here’s to the consumers who push the envelope for creative new spins from an age-old product. Welcome to Planet Coffee.