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Chronicle Coffee Now Open, Grand Opening Soon

February 15, 2013 Economy, Featured, Local Business, Midtown, North City, Retail 33 Comments

Last July I posted about a New Coffeehouse Opening Soon on Page Blvd Just East of Grand Ave. It took a white while to open but last month it finally did. A few days ago I met someone there and returned for lunch.  The concept is simple, a nice neighborhood coffeehouse that hires employees from the area.

ABOVE: Chronicle Coffee is located in the corner of a building that also houses the St. Louis Public Housing Authority and a PNG Bank branch.  Click for Google Maps.
ABOVE: Chronicle Coffee is located in the corner of a building that also houses the St. Louis Public Housing Authority and a PNG Bank branch. Click for Google Maps.

But how do you make such an enterprise financially viable? During my visit I was able to chat with the owner, turns out the answer is through acquisition!

Rick Milton, owner of Northwest Coffee Roasting Co., has sold his company to Jason Wilson, the owner of Chronicle Coffee. Chronicle is located just north of Grand Center at 1235 Blumeyer Ave. The sale, completed in December, includes both the Northwest Coffee roasting operation as well as Northwest Coffee cafes in Clayton and the Central West End. (Sauce Magazine)

By buying the well established Northwest Coffee Wilson has quality coffee for Chronicle and a good place to train new employees.

ABOVE: Owner Jason Wilson sat down with us to talk about Chronicle, Northwest and creating jobs in a community in need of work.
ABOVE: Owner Jason Wilson sat down with us to talk about Chronicle, Northwest, and creating jobs in a community in need of more employment opportunities.
ABOVE: Tables & chairs will arrive next month
ABOVE: Tables & chairs will arrive next month

One wall of Chronicle Coffee includes enlarged black & white prints of the former Blumeyer public housing project that once  occupied the immediate area.I know I’ll return when I’m nearby. Wilson is finalizing plans for their grand opening later this month.

— Steve Patterson

 

Currently there are "33 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    I wish ’em the best – hope the neighborhood supports ’em! While having the cash flow and experience that comes from the existing locations will help, any good business owner will be keeping a close eye on the bottom line here – it has to be(come) profitable here if it’s going to remain open here.

     
    • goodluck says:

      You can’t just wish them the best without the commentary?

       
      • JZ71 says:

        No, not really. Any business depends on its customers, and I’ve seen plenty of “smart” chains make plenty of “dumb” mistakes, fail and close, not just starry-eyed entrepreneurs. To succeed, here or anywhere, a business needs to meet the needs of its customers. Coffee shops (and another yuppie favorite, wine bars) are discretionary spending, not the essentials of life. From what little I know about this area, there is less discretionary income available here than in many other parts of the area – what works in the CWE may not work here. Steve’s visiting when he’s “nearby” won’t be enough, coffee shops need regular customers, willing and able to spend $4-$5-$6+ each day.

         
        • Mark Brown says:

          That’s right. You know little.

          And because you know so little about the area, maybe you should stick to what you know most. With your analysis, I guess that means people won’t drive to the area to support the business? Why not? If the coffee is good and unique – they will. And because coffeehouses are few and far between in North St. Louis, I predict he will get nice traffic. He simply has to offer a nice ambiance, good customer service and the variety expected at a coffee shop. He will get support from Ranken, St. Rock, Grand Center, St. Louis Community College, which has a branch nearby, the VA hospital and it shares a building with the St. Louis Housing Authority and a bank.

          While the median income for this area is not the highest, not every resident in this area is poor. There are solid middle-class families in the JeffVanderLou neighborhood – despite what you know.

          Instead of getting a fresh cup of toilet-water coffee from a gas station, now area residents who desire a real cup of coffee can go to Mr. Wilson’s coffee cafe.

           
          • moe says:

            Seriously I wish him well and I hope he can get a chain going, not only in north St. Louis, but all over….Kaldi’s stated with just one small shop. But Mark Brown….the odds are stacked against him. 80% of all restaurants fail in the first year, and that number jumps to 90% during the second year, and the owners/managers have a wide range of educations…including masters.

             
          • Mark Brown says:

            Sad. Because it sounds as if you are rooting for him to fail. Classic hater move. You’re jealous. Instead of just wishing him the best MINUS the extra BS – you sound as if you can’t wait for your, “I told you so” moment. Sad. In a city that desperately needs social and business amenities as well as encouragement of entrepreneurs like Mr. Wilson, you are talking a little bit too much and your inner “sadness” is showing or is it “sadness”?

             
          • moe says:

            Mark…take your issues elsewhere please. Like to school and learn what it takes to open a food establishment. you would be surprised.

             
          • Zack Davis says:

            Thanks mark way to stand up very true

             
    • Wilson has an MBA from Washington University, I’m pretty sure he knows he needs a profit to stay open. He’s also smart enough to know that profit isn’t immediate.

       
    • aaronlevi says:

      what if the profits from the other locations were enough to cover any losses by this one? What if this location was simply opened with the intent of being part of a neighborhood revitalization effort and to provide a place of employment/training for residents in the area? i know the idea goes against all things capitalist/American and the idea that everyone should be working to make as much money as they possibly can, but what if you had 3-4 businesses that made enough money to keep themselves open, pay you a fair/decent salary for your efforts, and have enough left over to cover for a less profitable/more benevolent branch?

       
      • JZ71 says:

        That would be great, but it usually takes more than “3-4” profitable locations to support one truly non-profit operation. (The St. Louis Bread Co, does something like this at their Clayton location, and at a few other locations around the country, but they have hundreds of profitable locations that do “pay the freight”.) If there’s unmet demand, here, for good coffee in nice surroundings, odds are good that he’ll succeed (and I hope that he does). And yes, I truly admire anyone who devotes their lives to altruistic ventures, But, bigger picture, for the city to thrive, we need to be a city of more than just non-profit ventures, we need businesses that actually succeed, financially, in their chosen niches, in every neighborhood. The city needs more than coffee shops and art galleries to create the good-paying jobs needed “in a community in need of more employment opportunities”. We need manufacturing, distribution, warehousing, “back office” and professional services. Getting people skills in the service sector is a first step, but it’s not what made St. Louis a great city a century ago.

         
        • eric2342 says:

          Clayton is a charity location?????

           
          • eric2342 says:

            Well, they say “pay what you can afford”, and people can certainly afford more on average in Clayton…

             
          • JZ71 says:

            Which argues for putting the store in Clayton, and not at Page and Grand.

            I’m not against non-profits – they certainly fill a need and have a place in this world – but successful BUSINESSES need to make a profit to survive, to stay in business! Steve’s post and several commentators presume that generating a profit is not a goal here, but I’m not reading that as a direct quote from the owner. Since the owner has an MBA, I’d assume that he wants to make a profit, and not to just run a non-profit = money-losing operation here. We also don’t know the lease terms, how much the Housing Authority is subsidizing the operation and/or its start-up costs, as a perk for its employees. Coffee shops can certainly be profitable (see Starbucks), but they can also be money pits (see Starbucks, as well as many small start-ups, that have closed) – only time will tell at this location

            Remember, part of the dynamic here is that Steve wants to see neighborhood-serving businesses willingly occupying buildings just like this one. It justifies his argument that this type of architecture and urban design is the best (and only?) solution for the future of the city. It wouldn’t matter if this were a coffee shop, an art gallery or a liquor store. My perspective is a little different – I want to see businesses succeed, not fail, and I see their architectural and location choices as a tool to that end. A better path to success, here, would probably be a corner bar, but I’m guessing that politics would make getting a new liquor license nearly impossible. And a better path to success, for a coffee shop, would include a drive-thru, given this location’s proximity to three major streets (Page, Grand & MLK), but that doesn’t appear to be an option, here, either.

            Bottom line, I want to see businesses succeed, even this one. I don’t want to see him fail because the architecture “gets in the way”. I want the neighborhood to thrive and I want its residents to find gainful employment. Unfortunately, in today’s world, you gotta go where the jobs are, and that usually means commuting, which, in turn, usually means driving. Starbucks is building more drive-thru’s, McDonald’s is pushing a broader selection of coffees and Dunkin Donuts are building more stores in the area – Mr. Wilson has competition, and it’s not just in the immediate area. Coffee shops make money from selling coffee (duh!), not from people lingering and using the free wi-fi for hours on end. In business, it IS the bottom line – the more people you get through the doors, the more likely you are to stay profitable, and the more likely you are to hire more employees and be able to pay them better. If that’s the real goal, you gotta make the numbers work!

             
          • eric2342 says:

            My point being that even if Clayton doesn’t make a profit, it may make less of a loss than a similar arrangement would elsewhere…

             
          • JZ71 says:

            agree

             
          • Moe says:

            JZ well some of what you post is true, some is not. I’m digusted that you think only bars should be start ups in poor, lower-income areas. People do not gather at bars to use wi-fi and nibble on pretzel mix and talk about issues. Coffee shops are a non-alcoholic way for people of all ages to meet, shop, and yes, even work the internet. There are many small groups of neighbors that meet for their morning coffee….whether at stake n’shake, Chris’s Pancakes, IHOP, Denneys, Hartford…the list is endless. Many of these places are busy all opening hours, unlike some neighborhood bars which are only busy in the evening hours. So you have groups that gather in the morning to make sure everyone is ok, groups gather at lunch to get out of the house, groups gather after school for kids to socialize while parents to the same, groups gather in the evening for performance art. These don’t happen at bars. Those little groups at Chris’s and Hartford and the such know more about each other and their neighborhood and the news of the world than any bar patron would.

             
  2. Will Fru says:

    Significant typo in your second sentence, FYI.

     
  3. RyleyinSTL says:

    If areas like this ever have a chance of coming back at all they need bushiness like this, willing (and able) to take a chance on the area.

     
    • Agreed, but it’s as much business strategy as it is chance. The neighborhood is mixed income now but even poor folks drink coffee. What’s great are businesses that seek to employ locals, not just extract profits.

       
      • eric2342 says:

        “even poor folks drink coffee” – while lounging in a coffee shop? I would think they drink it at home before rushing to work…

         
        • One customer that came in during my visit was elderly and using a walker, he now has a place he can go to so he an socialize with the outside world.

           
          • eric2342 says:

            You socialize with a person, not with a cup of coffee. If he has someone to socialize with, he could also socialize with them elsewhere, in a park or church for example. If he prefers to socialize over $6 coffee, that is his choice but it shows he’s not exactly poor.

             
          • For many seniors socialization comes with anyone they encounter, including a coffeeshop employee. I don’t drink coffee at all. Socialization can also be just being out of the house around others,

             
        • Everyone is drawn to third places like coffee shops. Maybe they like to stop by on their day off so they can get a bite, have a smoothie, chat with neighbors, and recharge before returning to work?

           
          • moe says:

            Agreed. If everyone drank their coffee at home, places like Starbucks and Kaldi’s wouldn’t be around.

             
          • eric2342 says:

            If they are earning $9 an hour, as is typical, why would they chat with their neighbors over $6 gourmet restaurant coffee? Homemade coffee is pretty much free and has the same chatting potential. From what I have seen of poor urban neighborhoods, at least in summer, everyone sits out on their front porch and chats with each other there.

             
          • Again, the area is now mixed-income. Some are poor, some are low-income, and others are middle class. Instead of buying soda & chips at the nearby Walgreens they can come here and get something better for the same money. Residents now have another option!

             
  4. Moe says:

    While I wish them luck, I look forward to reading your complaints about those tables and chairs blocking the access to the door.

     
  5. David says:

    Actually, if he owns three locations, it doesn’t HAVE TO be profitable at this one…it’s possible for a community-minded entrepreneur to subsidize one non-profitable location with two that are profitable if he feels the benefit of providing this service to the neighborhood is worthwhile. Wilson might be just such an entrepreneur and I would respect him all the more for it.

     
    • aaronlevi says:

      i should have read all comments before leaving my own, as you’ve already made my case. definitely would respect him a great deal if this is truly his intent/mission

       

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