Roasting Business to Perfection

Hard working coffee-lovers at heart, Craig Arseneau and Chris Chantler developed a friendship while living in Boston, Massachusetts in the mid-1980’s. As they were establishing careers in the hospitality industry, the friends came to realize that working in a corporate environment was no longer satisfying and a desire to start a business of their own was ignited.  Chris and Craig began researching the specialty coffee industry from espresso carts to roasteries, until their undying motivation led to the launch of The Daily Grind Coffee Company in 1989, known today as Vail Mountain Coffee & Tea Co.

Deciding on the location for their business was rooted in a love for the great outdoors. “We went on a ski trip to Vail around the time we were exploring business opportunities. The snow was amazing and we wondered how we could live out here,” Craig mentioned. They saw an opportunity to bring high-quality coffee to Vail, which was not being offered at the time. “It probably would have been better to start our business in a primary market,” Chris explained, “But we decided to take the more challenging route by launching in a rural-mountain community. Craig and I knew that we would face unique challenges, but ultimately we felt the risk was worth it for the lifestyle.” Chris and Craig’s hunch proved to be right.

Two years after opening their storefront in the heart of Vail Village, they decided to roll out three additional shops in Denver. With the large volume of coffee being sold, it was simply logical to start a roasting operation rather than purchasing from a third party. They found a small warehouse in Minturn to get the roasting production up and running and eventually expanded roasting in Basalt as well. However, Chris and Craig were spreading themselves thin and decided to consolidate efforts by focusing 100% of their energy on roasting operations in Minturn. The friends sold the storefronts along with the roastery in Basalt.

Three decades, two name changes, and the addition of a whole leaf tea line later, Chris and Craig hold claim to one of the most highly renowned roasteries in the state. As Vail Mountain Coffee & Tea has reinvented themselves over the years, Chis explained, “We wanted to stay at the forefront of the market. It’s been really rewarding to seed the coffee industry around Colorado and in neighboring states.” Today Vail Mountain Coffee & Tea produces more than 400,000 pounds of coffee annually, supplies over 375 wholesale customers, and is expanding their nationwide presence through online distribution. 

While Vail Mountain Coffee & Tea sources sustainable coffee beans from farmers around the world, Craig noted, “We don’t just produce exceptional coffee. We’re a service company that emphasizes a strong relationship with all of our customers.” In doing so, Chris and Craig have built a dedicated team incentivizing them with more responsibilities and opportunities to make additional money and a reasonable living wage. Despite the challenges of a small labor pool in a rural town, Vail Mountain Coffee & Tea’s employee retention rate hails 5 to 10 years, with a client retention rate up to 25 years.  They also embody a triple bottom line framework in their business by donating to over 20 local organizations in their community and minimizing their environmental impact.

Vail Mountain Coffee & Tea has partnered with Colorado Lending Source on three separate SBA loans. First in 2016 to consolidate existing debt, and then in 2018 under the SBA 504 loan program to purchase the unit next door and to refinance an existing commercial real estate loan. This funding reduced their monthly mortgage payments by over 50% and provided additional space to expand roasting and bagging operations. They also used an SBA 7(a) companion loan to purchase new roasting and packaging equipment. The combined economic impact of their financing is $1,870,000 that helped to create 4 jobs, employing a total of 13 staff.

The SBA 504 loan program is a great opportunity for companies to purchase real estate. Vail Mountain Coffee & Tea is a perfect example of how this program propels small business growth.

Larry Cavanaugh, Citywide Banks

Chris and Craig developed a strong relationship with their lender, Larry Cavanaugh from Citywide Banks, who worked with Colorado Lending Source on financing Vail Mountain Coffee & Tea. He shared, “The SBA 504 loan program is a great opportunity for companies to purchase real estate. Vail Mountain Coffee & Tea is a perfect example of how this program propels small business growth.” Now that Vail Mountain Coffee & Tea has more cash in their pockets and space in their roastery, they are well positioned for accelerated production levels with better profit margins for continued growth!