Sun Biz: Coffee sellers jittery about customers cutting back
“Triple venti caramel macchiato, please.”
The frequency of such coffee-shop orders faded quickly when gasoline prices started the hike upward.
“You can tell a lot of the people have switched from specialty coffees to regular coffee, and they’ll treat themselves once or twice a week to a specialty drink,” said Debra Bock, co-owner of Java Junction, 2401 North Ave. “When the fuel starts dropping down, they’ll treat themselves to a latté.”
“It’s a dance with the cost of fuel,” said Lisa Navarrette, owner of Beans About Beans coffee shop at 759 Horizon Drive.
Higher costs have forced some local coffee shops to raise or consider increasing the price of both drip coffee and espresso drinks.
Enstrom Candies recently raised the prices of its confections and coffee across the board by 11 percent. A cup of Enstrom’s drip coffee climbed above the $2 mark, with a medium drip going from $1.88 to $2.14, including tax.
“Prices on a lot of our ingredients are up this year,” said Doug Simons, Enstrom’s president. “We hadn’t had a price increase in two years. It’s unfortunate, and we hate to do it, but we really have to if we want to stay
in business and provide a service. We’ve seen a lot of increases, from fuel surcharges and health care costs of our employees going up, to chocolate hitting a 28-year high increase. We’ve taken quite a hit.”
Navarrette said it’s never easy to make the decision to hike prices by a nickel or dime as she has in the past, but she realizes the necessity of again raising prices slightly in the near future.
“I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve got to do it if I want to stay in business,” Navarrette said.
Cabin Coffee is planning an expansion of its store space inside Summit Canyon Mountaineering, 461 Main St., and plans to increase the cost of a cup of Joe.
Will the coffee culture hold? Bock thinks so.
“They’re treating themselves,” she said. “Everybody still needs that, even when money’s tight.”
Nina Willdorf, in her book “City Chic: An Urban Girl’s Guide to Livin’ Large on Less,” wrote of her experiment of buying single cups of drip coffee from different shops at $1.45 to $1.65 per cup, which added up to $32 for a month. She then purchased a one-pound bag of whole beans from her favorite coffee shop from home for $12, readied her bean grinder at home and bought a tall chrome mug from Crate & Barrel for $15. The beans lasted two months.
“At that rate, including my initial investment, with the simple adjustment in my routine, I would save $300 a year,” she wrote. “Not bad, especially since I was drinking better coffee anyway!”
Although some people might go that route, Kellie McKeehan, co-owner of The Coffee Studio, 2913 F Road, said coffee brewed at home doesn’t usually compare to what a customer is used to in a coffee shop. The shops have better brewing equipment, she said.
“We have people who will try that, and they come back,” McKeehan said of customers who decide to buy, grind and brew their own coffee beans. “They say it didn’t taste the same at home. We get that a lot.”
Another reason the coffee culture is not likely to fold, Bock said, is the social element of coffee as a route for friendship, dating and business.
“Everybody knows coffee is a luxury, but it’s still an affordable luxury,” she said. “You go to a movie, and it’s over $10, and you go to sit with someone and a cup of coffee for maybe $6.”