A Look at How Michigan’s Biggby Coffee Grew Big

By Jane Whitttington on April 29th, 2015 / Comments

In 1995, a small coffee shop opened in East Lansing, close to the Michigan State University campus. Tucked away in a corner of the city, there were no plans beyond making one coffee shop successful. Today, 241 Biggby Coffee locations stretch from Marquette in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula all the way to Dallas, Texas.

Biggby Coffee President Michael McFall says, “We opened our first store in March of 1995 and our second in October of 1997. Soon, people started calling us asking if we franchised. Based on that, we started exploring the idea. By 1998, we had decided to develop the company by offering franchises. In 1999, we started the slow progression of franchising new coffee shops. Two were opened that first year. Essentially, from that point on, we have doubled the number every two years. By the end of 2003, there were 18 stores. And that growth has continued. There are now 241 Biggby Coffees open or under construction in nine states.”

Together McFall and CEO Bob Fish keep a close eye on the development of their growing company from corporate headquarters in Lansing. Another partner, Mary Rozell, recently retired. McFall and Fish no longer operate any of the stores themselves, preferring to concentrate their efforts on the expanding franchise market.

McFall says, “We focus our efforts on Michigan and the Midwest. Studies show that Biggby Coffee touches 77 percent of Michiganians in a single day. They stop in for coffee, see a billboard or newspaper ad or hear a radio spot. You can’t beat that kind of exposure.  Because of that, our Michigan stores are the most successful, but we are definitely making headway in other markets. “

The operator of a new store signs an agreement to build the store to specifications provided by the parent company, so all the stores have a similar look and feel. The ambiance is warm and inviting with easy chairs, often a fireplace and a color scheme of browns and oranges.

McFall says, “We provide training, and we continue to touch back with them on a regular basis. We require that each new owner spends a certain amount of time working at the front of the house as the business develops.  Our goal is to make these franchisees successful, and we work closely with them to make sure that happens. “

Besides coffee, coffee drinks, tea, hot chocolate and smoothies, Biggby also serves bagels, muffins and other baked goods. Coffee is sourced through Paramount Coffee, a long-time Lansing coffee purveyor.

According to McFall, “We didn’t really see a slowdown of business during the recession. In fact, our growth rate has steadily increased since the beginning. “

He continues, “We are a Michigan-based company, and doing business in our home state is our first priority.”

Biggby publishes a monthly calendar and newsletter, filled with special offers and events. With good coffee, tasty food and pleasant surroundings, their goal is for all their customers to B Happy!

About the Author

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Grand Rapids. A Michigan native and Michigan State University grad, she enjoys reading, travel, politics and volunteering.