By Dee DePass
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Caribou Coffee has come a long way since December 1992, when Kim Puckett would leave her frazzled husband to run their new coffee shop alone while she raced next door to hand out flyers to people standing in line for the movies.
She would dash back just in time to help serve the after-movie crowd.
“That was back in the day,” said co-founder John Puckett during a recent interview some 17 years after the couple sold their business. “We’d run out of milk and hand a customer a $20 bill to go get us more milk. Our customers were so loyal. They really gave us a chance. If it didn’t go well, we wouldn’t be here right now.”
Caribou Coffee, which marked its 25th year in business this month, is no longer the tiny Edina, Minn., business the Pucketts once steered with the help of long hours and cash infusions from friends, parents and investment banks. It is now the nation’s second-largest coffee chain.
Still retaining an updated version of the North Woods store decor, the business has 798 owned and franchised locations in 23 states, Washington, D.C., and 12 countries. Its beans sell in grocery stores in all 50 states, and the retail chain has the No. 1 coffee shop in Kuwait.
“Every bean that you buy in the world with the Caribou name is sourced by us, and every bean is roasted right here in Brooklyn Center. I am always kind of shocked that Minnesotans don’t know that,” said John Butcher, the former Target executive who became Caribou’s president in June.
He flies to Costa Rica and Colombia in a few weeks to meet with coffee farmers and to test and buy beans, Butcher said as he walked through the roastery and warehouse, where sky-high piles of coffee bags arrive by plane and truckload every week.