Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:23 pm
Development director, co-owner, founder and quality grader
Giri Corp., dba Stone Creek Coffee
422 N. Fifth St., Milwaukee
Employees: About 130
Stone Creek Coffee’s four co-owners recently decided to expand the coffee business into Madison and Chicago, as well as open new cafes in the Milwaukee market. Stone Creek will open a cafe in July in Wauwatosa, in November on Downer Avenue in Milwaukee, and two in Chicago in spring 2018, bringing the total to 15 stores. BizTimes managing editor Molly Dill caught up with Eric Resch, founder and co-owner of Stone Creek, about the company’s growth streak.
How did you decide it was time to start expanding into other markets, and how did you choose Chicago and Madison?
“Why new markets? Why climb a mountain? Because it challenges you; because it’s full of unknowns; because it helps you grow.
“We chose Madison and Chicago, ultimately, because they were close to home. We could drive there in a day, we could visit our cafes, we could serve our customers, we could serve our stores out of the Stone Creek factory in Milwaukee. We do buy local fresh bakery in Madison. We’ll do the same thing in Chicago. And then at some point, if our business continues to grow in Chicago, we would build a Stone Creek roastery and then potentially, a Stone Creek kitchen. That’s where we make all our coffee-centric foods.”
How does Stone Creek differentiate itself in a crowded coffee market?
“On the retail side of our business, we focus on three primary things: No. 1, the quality of our coffee that we try to produce – we call it sweet, clean and juicy. The second is to build beautiful cafes – places that you want to come see and spend time. The third is creating a very welcoming space and just having professional level baristas there every day all day to serve our customers.
“One other thing that is an umbrella statement: We have a saying at Stone Creek that is ‘Never stop learning.’ It’s really a celebration of failure. We welcome and encourage crazy ideas, we’re willing to try things, we prototype the ideas as quickly as we can.”
What are some examples of celebrated Stone Creek failures?
“For a while, we actually had a fail wall – a wall where we would post big and small failures. It would go from anything from the first time we shipped a container of coffee from Tanzania, it got lost and ended up in a port that we didn’t know it was going to and the coffee got too hot, all the way to trying to develop a new coffee with rose petals on top that just didn’t work.
“Failure is a strong word. It’s more about encouraging new things, trying new things. They’re simply just exercises in learning.”
Stone Creek has a flat leadership structure. Has that become more challenging as the company has grown?
“We didn’t used to have that. It was more of a traditional hierarchy. We actually put this in place about three years ago because as the entrepreneur or the original founder of the company, I was out of bandwidth. Now it’s sort of mass chaos with a reasonable amount of control and feedback loops. It’s up to each team to accomplish their goals and we have a shared understanding of what their goals are. But it’s up to them to go find the resources and the partners to accomplish those goals.”
Has that structure ever backfired or been a challenge for you?
“I would say for me individually, it’s been a challenge because I had to change my habits. As the founder of the company, I have a tendency to want to control things. I think for some individuals who want to be told what to do, it can feel unstructured and difficult. Because the structure rewards those who kind of stand up and go do something.”