Chris Eilers

Co-CEO Dunn Bros. Coffee

April 1st 12:00 PM McNeely 116

The “chain” word makes Chris Eilers of Minneapolis-based Dunn Bros wince. Seventy-five of Dunn Bros’ 80 stores are owned by independent franchisees, small-business people who run their shops with some latitude.

Eilers and co-founder Skip Fay, who share the CEO title, were the first Dunn Bros franchisees 20 years ago. That was before they bought the franchisor rights from founder Ed Dunn. They, together with like-minded franchisees, fueled success with roasted-in-store exotic coffees grown around the globe.
And they learned during the 2008-09 recession years that it takes more than coffee drinks to make a buck in the coffee-shop trade.

“The Great Recession caused us to recalibrate,” Eilers said. “Specialty coffee is mainstream now. And it’s much tougher for independent franchisees to borrow money to open a Dunn Bros or tap their [diminished retirement] accounts or home equity loans.”

Dunn Bros has diversified into homemade baked goods and sandwiches. It has struck partnerships with a local candymaker and independent publishers to help its franchisees grow organically in a business where even McDonald’s boasts about its coffee drinks.

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