While the last few years have witnessed the closure of more than a few local businesses, Dutch Bros. of Arizona — the local franchise of the popular Oregon-based family of drive-thru coffee kiosks — has continued to expand in the Valley.
The first Arizona store opened in the East Valley in August of 2007, during the crest of financial stability that led right up to when the recession began.
Now boasting eight stores in Arizona — including three in Tempe and one each in Gilbert and Mesa — and another three slated for openings next year, Dutch Bros. will not be slowing its growth, said Jim Thompson, Dutch Bros. of Arizona franchise owner.
Starting in Tempe, the local franchise tried to replicate the coffee culture that permeates much of the Pacific Northwest.
“It seemed like there was a place for this kind of business,” said Thompson, who is from Oregon.
Rather than a destination, drive-thru coffee stands are intended to fit into a customer’s lifestyle while they are on their way somewhere else.
“When we first opened, we had a lot of people park their car and walk up to the window,” Thompson said with a laugh. “We had to put up signs that said ‘drive-thru.’”
Like with all things drive-thru, Dutch Bros. has a tradition of speed; the company prides itself on being fast.
While drive-thru coffee stands are common in the Northwest, the concept seemed underdeveloped in Arizona, Thompson said.
Dutch Bros. was originally started in Grants Pass, Ore., by Travis and Dane Boersma — two brothers who Thompson had known for years as friends of his son. More than 150 stores are located throughout California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington — as well as Arizona.
Thompson had retired from a career in automotive sales in Oregon, but found himself spending a lot of time in Phoenix.
Thompson, however, loved the easy winters and the constant sunshine. Hoping to keep himself busy and spend even more time in the Valley, Thompson opened his first coffee stand in 2007 with his wife, Janice McCarthy.
Through the franchise’s first three years, six drive-thru coffee shops were opened, including four in 2009.
The difference that Dutch Bros. brings to coffee, Thompson said, is in the product, service and quality.
“We don’t nickel and dime you,” Thompson said.
He tries to mean that literally — coffee prices are in 25 cent increments, tax is included and syrups and milk options are free.
Even the rewards program, a stamp card that allows a free drink every 11th drink, is more frequent than Dutch Bros. largest competitor, Thompson said, which gives a free drink every 15th purchase.
“We give 10,000 free drinks each month just off of those cards,” Thompson said.
When the newest location opened at Rural and Guadalupe roads in Tempe on Veterans Day, the branch served more than 3,500 cups of free coffee.
Additionally, Thompson sees it as his duty to give back to the community by hosting fundraisers for causes such as breast cancer research. The company has a corporate policy where one percent of gross sales are donated back to the community.
The coffee taste is unique, derived from a three-coffee-bean blend, Thompson said. While the blend incorporates beans from three different regions, the exact recipe is a company secret.
And while the company expects fast, inexpensive service, Thompson requires a certain personality from his baristas to complete the experience.
“We look for a very specific type of person,” Thompson said. “If you have the right personality, that’s what makes a difference. You can teach most people to make coffee.”
Most of the baristas are young and in college, as the shift lengths make it easy to schedule around classes, Thompson said.
In November, Dutch Bros. of Arizona implemented an earth-friendly program that turns nearly 80 percent of what used to be trash into recyclables.
For additional locations, visit www.dutchbros.com.
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