The Stockton Graham & Co. Story: 20 Years and Counting

The year was 1994… back then, cell phones were bigger, gas was cheaper, and Classic Coffees had just opened its doors for business. The quaint little shop off of Six Forks Road in Raleigh, NC was founded by two friends looking to own their own business. Little did they know, twenty years later the small business would still be an adventure never anticipated.

stockton graham & co. turns 20

It all started with a bag of beans. While working as an accountant, Jeff Vojta, co-founder and CEO of Stockton Graham & Co., received a bag of gourmet coffee as a gift. After sipping a cup of the gourmet brew, Jeff was astonished to find that the coffee actually tasted good, better than he ever thought coffee could taste! So when he and a friend started talk of going into business together, they decided to go into the business of coffee. The pair chose to open their own coffee shop, not only because of the profitability of coffee, but because coffee is something that people are passionate about. They felt that coffee brings people together, not only in cafés, but as a globally traded commodity. Jeff has said, “Coffee is a unifying force, bringing people of all cultures and backgrounds together to do business and create something special.”

stockton graham & co. turns 20

 

In May 1994, Classic Coffees was a 744 sq. ft. store that featured local artists’ work, gourmet desserts, and of course, specialty coffee. The dream was to become a national retail store. After asking customers, friends and family what they liked and disliked about coffee, the business partners realized the market demanded craft-roasted, specialty offerings. In 1996, the founders opted to expand the original store to nearly 2,000 sq. ft. to include a 12 kilo Petroncini roaster. Jeff roasted the first batch and learned by trial-and-error what worked and what didn’t. He even remembers setting the cooling tray on fire! They eventually got the hang of roasting after going to lots of trade shows, trading knowledge with other roasters and experimenting in their shop.

During the next several years, the company expanded into four retail locations operating in Raleigh and landed wholesale accounts throughout North Carolina and Virginia. They began selling their coffee to other coffeehouses, gourmet specialty stores, fine dining and other establishments wanting to serve craft-roasted coffee. Due to the high demand of wholesale coffee, Classic Coffees Roasting Company was created as a wholesale roaster and distributor.

While running their growing business, the partners had to find the right products to satisfy their café customers’ demands. The specialty beverage industry was growing, and customers wanted unique, tasty drinks. Jeff remembers, “This was back before Starbucks had frappes. It was summer time, and we were wondering where all our customers had gone.” They realized they needed cool and refreshing beverages to drive traffic during the warmer months, so they started offering blended beverages and iced drinks. As they diversified the products they offered, they ran into a new challenge: tracking down the right product mix. Twenty years ago, securing product included a lot of time on the phone with multiple vendors and a lot of hassle. The entrepreneurs had to jump through hoop after hoop to make sure they had the quality product they wanted for their business. They started buying products in bulk and would sell what they didn’t use to other stores in the area that wanted the same high quality products.SGC

Thus, the wholesale business was born. By mid 1999, the four “Classic Coffees” retail locations were sold to focus shifted to the the growing wholesale coffee and specialty beverage product business. In 2001, the name of the company was changed to Stockton Graham & Co and the company settled in at the 4320 Delta Lake Drive address in Raleigh.

Today, the company owns the entire building and the roaster is a bit bigger. They upgraded to include 30 and 60 kilo Ambex roasters to provide artisan roasted coffees to customers across the United States. Stockton Graham & Co. has also assembled a team with over 100 years combined experience in the coffee industry that offers business advice in addition to providing high-quality coffee and beverage products.

photo 33While the company has grown in size and capabilities, the core values and vision remain focused on offering customers the highest quality specialty coffees, knowledge and tools. This enables our customers to offer superior hand-crafted espresso and specialty, made-to-order drinks. Stockton Graham & Co. prides itself on blending the art of coffee roasting and drink preparation with the business of coffee including: consultation, equipment, advice and specialty products to help build superior and successful coffee businesses.

Jeff’s “Keys to Success” After Twenty Years in the Business of Coffee:

  • Listen to your customer.
  • Surround yourself with a good team.
  • Treat your staff and customers fairly, and work with people with the same goal.
  • Stick to your values and quality of product.
  • Business is about people. Keep them at the heart of your decisions.

Twenty Years Tells Us: Offer Bulk & Retail Coffee

SGC-historyYou have probably heard us talk about the profitability of a bulk & retail coffee program before, and we know from experience that it is a great idea! Twenty years ago this May, our CEO Jeff Vojta and his business partner started a little coffee shop in Raleigh, NC, called Classic Coffees which would later become Stockton Graham & Co. Back in 1994, there wasn’t much to go on in terms of how to run a coffee shop. Starbucks wasn’t yet a household name, and the specialty coffee industry was still in its infancy. Our founders had to experiment with what worked, what failed and what could be improved upon. One of the best revenue streams turned out to be Classic Coffee’s bulk and retail coffee offerings. They started small with only 5 or 6 offerings in their program, and within 2 years they had over 100 different coffees available.

SGC_RetailCoffeeInfographicChart_2014The bulk and retail coffee program in the original store is one of the key factors Jeff attributes to the store’s success. Jeff has said, “Shops that properly implement a robust bulk coffee program can expect a 40-50% increase in gross coffee and coffee beverage sales.” One of the ways that a bulk coffee program can help your store do this is by increasing customer loyalty. You see your best customers 3-5 times a week, but they drink coffee everyday. Is it your coffee? If they aren’t using beans bought from your store, they are buying them from somewhere else. Instead of losing the business to some other store or supermarket, offer customers the same great coffee you serve as a retail option! Selling take-home coffee adds to incremental sales, helps you rotate your stock more quickly, and keeps you relevant with your customers on a daily basis. They are more than likely to share it with friends and family and come back to you with future business! What a great way to market to new potential customers!

Thinking about starting your own bulk and retail coffee program? Here is what Jeff did at Classic Coffees to increase both sales and customer loyalty:SGC-Bulk-Coffee

 

What Jeff did:

  • Made the beans accessible to customers to see, smell and taste
  • Educated staff and customers about the coffees
  • He had a separate help line for those stopping in just to buy beans
  • Had over 100 selections of coffee
  • Offered shipping and gift baskets

For more information about bulk and retail coffee programs, give your Customer Care Associate a call at 800.835.5943.

Want to private label your retail coffees? Read more about our private label program here.

Need point-of-sale materials to support your retail or bulk team program? Read how we can help here.

Specialty Coffee Roaster, Stockton Graham & Co., Turns 20

STG513-ID-stickerJeff Vojta, co-founder and President of Stockton Graham & Co., a specialty coffee roaster and wholesale beverage, equipment and accessory distributor located in Raleigh, NC, announced that the company will celebrate 20 years in the business of coffee on May 12, 2014.

Stockton Graham & Co. started as a coffee shop, Classic Coffees, on Six Forks Road in 1994. The single store grew to include roasting and the business evolved into Classic Coffee Roasting Company. As the wholesale and distribution business grew, the business moved to the current 4320 Delta Lake Drive, Raleigh address in 1999.

To better reflect the wholesale mission and values, the name of the company was changed to Stockton Graham & Co. Today, their mission of roasting great coffee and helping customers succeed in the business of coffee is still a reality.

“Our success has been built upon helping our customers succeed in serving exceptional coffees and handcrafted beverages, while providing outstanding customer service,” said Vojta. “Our team of dedicated coffee professionals is committed, not only to expanding our knowledge of coffee, but to help our industry further develop and promote specialty coffee standards; thus ensuring our industry and company’s continued growth and enabling 20 more years of coffee excellence.”

Stockton Graham & Co. is committed to helping specialty retailers build superior and successful coffee businesses. For more information about Stockton Graham & Co. and its products, or to place an order, call 800-835-5943 or visit www.stocktongraham.com.

About Stockton Graham & Co.:

Founded in 1994, Stockton Graham & Co. is nationally known for roasting great coffee, developing customized specialty coffee and beverage programs, providing operators the keys to building enduring specialty coffee businesses, creating and promoting coffee industry standards and trends, and offering customers unsurpassed knowledge and tools to serve quality coffees and other hand-crafted specialty drinks. For more information, visit www.stocktongraham.com.

Celebrating May Anniversaries

In honor of Stockton Graham & Co.’s 20th year in business, we have been celebrating important dates for the company. This May, we are celebrating two pivotal Stockton Graham & Co. team members’ anniversaries, Jeff Vojta and Robbie Oakley.

polaroid-jeffJeff Vojta is celebrating 20 years in the coffee industry! Being a part of this business since 1994, Jeff has served in many roles including, barista, coffee shop owner, roaster, delivery driver, green coffee buyer and trainer. His love for coffee lead him to start a coffee shop, “Classic Coffees” and the rest is Stockton Graham & Co. history. He started roasting his own coffees and selling to the local area and now serves as our CEO.

 

Jeff has traveled the world looking for great coffee and speaking on specialty coffee, including a trip to Dubai and Nicaragua. He loves learning about the different cultures involved in coffee growing as he travels and trying all the local cuisine along the way.

“This month represents twenty years of our company being in existence, and I have had the privilege of being present twelve of those years.  I first met Jeff on a buying trip in Costa Rica, and could see the passion and excitement he had not only for his company, but also for the relationships that connected his business to specialty coffee. There are far too many examples to relate as to what I have learned from Jeff, but perhaps the biggest thing is that one should never stop learning in this industry.  Specialty coffee is his passion, and while I was not here during our company’s infancy with the retail locations, the success of Stockton Graham & Co. is a testament to what Jeff built in those early days.  Here is to twenty more years, Jeff!  We are all honored to be part of this amazing team of professionals.” – Brandon Riggs, Director of Coffee

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jeff since we designed the logo and corporate identity for Classic Coffees Roasting Company in 1997. He’s helped me through a lot both professionally and personally throughout the years, and has given me and my staff a lot of great opportunities to do fun, creative work from helping to name the company in the early days, to the new positioning and branding with cut paper graphics. I am thankful to have Stockton Graham & Co. as a client and Jeff as a friend, and I admire his big heart and big ideas!” – Wendy Coulter, CEO – Hummingbird Creative Group

 

Robbie OakleyThis May marks Robbie Oakley’s 2nd year at Stockton Graham & Co.! Starting with us in 2012, Robbie handles many tasks in the warehouse throughout the day. He considers himself responsible for accurately picking and packing each customer’s order and ensuring that it arrives in a timely and intact manner. His genuine concern for the customer makes Robbie a great member of our team. Robbie is a great worker and leader and we are glad to have him as part of our team!

“While Robbie has only been with Stockton Graham & Co. for two years, he has become an indispensable member of our team. Not only does he work hard to ensure customer orders are sent out on time and correct, he helps to build team work and spirit in the back with creative team building events.” – Jeff Vojta, CEO

“Robbie’s dedication to our customers is evident in how he has transformed our shipping/receiving department.  He has implemented several new ideas to ensure customer orders are processed and shipped correctly, and is an integral part of our warehouse team as the leader.  His vast background knowledge of deadlines and time sensitive projects has added new dimensions to our capabilities.  His creative nature and leadership inspire everyone here at Stockton Graham & Co.” -Brandon Riggs, Director of Coffee

Thank you both for your hard work!