In 1992, while hiking in the mountains of Denali National Park, Minneapolis natives John and Kim Puckett had an inspiration. They reached the top of Sable Mountain and looked out upon the mind-numbingly beautiful vista, the trees, the hills, the herd of caribou, and they saw that it was good. They decided, upon returning home, that they would create a gourmet coffee shop that would feel as good as their experiences in the park and recreate the simplicity found there. In December of 1992 they opened their first store. The pictures and photographs from their trip are still in many of the 188 stores throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan, and Maryland.
That's where the official story ends...
In its first years the fledgling company had many difficulties. Due to its rapid growth (50 stores by 1996), the company fell upon financial troubles and the investors and members of the board became concerned about the companies financial future. A solution was reached and the following year (1997) Jay Willoughby, an operations expert from Pepsico, was brought in to aid the Pucketts and address the concerns of the board. He haulted the growth at 90 stores in 1998 while the company dealt with its financial problems.
Also in 1998, John and Kim were replaced by Don Dempsey, a veteran of McDonald's Corp, but remained on the board. Even under this new leadership, the company was running out of cash, facing fierce competition from Starbucks, to whom Caribou is a distant second in the caffeine and conversation business. Therefore, in December of 2000, Caribou Coffee was effectively sold (an 87.8% stake) to Crescent Capital, an investor based in Atlanta but backed and owned by First Islamic Investment Bank. Under this support, Caribou has regained its financial footing and continues growth once more, still under the leadership of CEO Don Dempsey.
Every Caribou Coffee has been designed to capture the feel of an Alaskan lodge. This is accomplished quite effectively in all the stores that I have seen. It is neither too rustic and manly nor too corporate and fake. It is a very comfortable place to sit and have a chat. They typically contain a gas fireplace, wooden rafters and comfy couches, completing the lodge look and making it nice and toasty when it's Minnesota outside. Caribou is always a nice retreat from the corporate enforced comfort that is Starbucks.
I am not myself a big coffee drinker but from mine and my friends' experience I have noted that Caribou Coffee is typically sweeter and gentler than Starbucks. YMMV. I typically get a chai tea latte, which is heavenly.
The coffees they offer, from lighter to darker.
- Kenya AA
- La Minita Peaberry (Seasonal)
- Daybreak Morning Blend*
- Costa Rica
- Caribou Blend*
- Fireside Evening Blend*
- Rainforest Blend
- Mocha Java
- French Roast*
*Available in Decaf
Starbucks to Caribou Conversion
Latte Cafe Latte Espresso and Steamed Milk
Frappuccino® Caribou Cooler Coffee blended with ice
Caramel Macchiato Espresso with Vanilla and Caramel
Venté Extra Large
Despite some semantic
differences, Caribou offers pretty much everything that Starbucks does. If you don't know what it's called in Caribou terms, you can tell them the Starbucks name and they should be able to make it.
I do not, nor have I ever worked at Caribou but I have heard glowing descriptions from friends who have. They are very, very nice to even their part-time people, offering benefits unparelleled by similar establishments. They are one of the only companies to offer its part-time employees such benefits as Medical, Dental and Vision insurance; a 401k; paid vacations, and a prescription plan. (They also offer "Regular performance feedback", which I find amusing)
Caribou Coffee Company
615 North 3rd St.
Minneapolis, MN 55401
CEO Don Dempsey
CFO George Mileusnic
Director of Real Estate John Gelderman
Director of Store Development Tom Berzinski
Director of Human Resources Karen McBride
Director of Coffee & Tea Chad Trewick
Director of Marketing Chris Toal
Note for Alarmists
At one time, the First Islamic Investment Bank had on its board someone of "questionable nature" (Sheik Yusuf Abdullah al-Qaradawi, he does have quite a record, look him up), it has since severed all ties to any sort of anti-American activity or terrorism. It has also voluntarily had its affairs audited and confirms that no part of Caribou's profits go to aid groups banned under U.S. Law. So there.