Going Wholesale

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:36 pm

Since Milwaukee-based Stone Creek Coffee was started in 1993, president and owner Eric Resch has grown his business to nine retail stores around metropolitan Milwaukee and one central office and roasting facility downtown. However, instead of looking for more sites for more coffee shops, Resch is looking to wholesale for Stone Creek’s future growth.

"Over the years, we’ve built our company through the retail stores," Resch said. "We’re not trying to force anything. We’re trying to use what we learned (in the retail stores) to create solutions for our customers. We’ve dealt with hundreds of vendors, and we’ve learned what it takes to be a good vendor to others."

In December, Resch created a two-person team to service wholesale customers. Jennifer Vondracek, who formerly managed Stone Creek Coffee cafes in Oconomowoc and Bay View, was recently promoted to manage wholesale and specialty sales. Steve Hawthorne, supply team manager, was also promoted to handle wholesale customer support.

Vondracek will be in charge of forming new relationships with wholesale customers and making sales, while Hawthorne will take care of those clients once they’re signed.

"It’s kind of a tag-team approach," Resch said.

Stone Creek is looking to greatly increase its wholesale business to grocery stores, other privately-owned coffee shops, bakeries, delis and corporate offices. The coffee roaster is now able to create not only custom roasts and blends for those customers, but also special packaging for their coffee.

Stone Creek recently bought its own color printer, which is capable of making custom labels for its coffee packages. By working with WS Packaging Group, an Algoma printing and packaging company, Stone Creek created blank labels that it could print on-site that are water-resistant and can handle four-color printing.

The printer and labels give Stone Creek the ability to create a completely custom product for clients, which they can sell in coffee shops, auction off for fundraisers or use as a give-away for their own clients.

And because Stone Creek has the printer, blank labels and access to its own coffee roasting machinery, all of the production is in-house, allowing the company to create as few or as many packages as a client wants.

"We can even do a lot size of one," Resch said. "It’s unique. I don’t know anyone else who can offer the same thing to their customers. We can do a special package for a wedding or a coffee shop or just our own Valentine’s Day packages."

Turnaround time is also very fast, because Stone Creek doesn’t have to wait for outside consultants or another company to produce any parts of the package.

Over the past 18 months, Stone Creek’s staff has been working behind the scenes to create infrastructure to support the new focus on wholesale sales. The main work has been developing a Web-based information flow system that can track orders, expedite requests for maintenance, manage sales leads and even instant-message between retail stores and the central office downtown.

The system allows orders for products, service or leads to be sent from one employee to another, in a system that is easily tracked. It evolved from a need to service Stone Creek’s cafes, Resch said.

"It started as a way to service our stores, our internal customers," he said. "On the retail side, we can service our stores the same way we service our customers."

By having the system Web-based, Resch and other Stone Creek employees are able to check their orders and the performance of different cafes from remote sites.

"We can see how our new products are selling," he said. "And it’s in real time within our network."

While Resch said expects to see increases in wholesale sales, he hasn’t put a dollar figure on those expectations.

"I have a vision of how I want it to function. We’re building the sales team and roasting capacity. It will get to the point where we will say ‘What are our sales goals?’ But we are in the building process now."

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display