rss icon

Sunday, 23 July 2017 14:19

Grand Rapids coffee roaster under new ownership

Written by 
Rate this item
(6 votes)
West Michigan native Timothy Volkema acquired Schuil Coffee Co. from second-generation owner Greta Schuil. He plans to leverage his career experience to grow the company, including by bolstering its e-commerce channel. West Michigan native Timothy Volkema acquired Schuil Coffee Co. from second-generation owner Greta Schuil. He plans to leverage his career experience to grow the company, including by bolstering its e-commerce channel. Photo by Katy Batdorff

GRAND RAPIDS — The new owner of Schuil Coffee Co. LLC hopes to leverage nearly two decades of experience in the packaged food and e-commerce industries to grow the 36-year-old roastery.

Timothy Volkema believes his career spanning stints at Amazon.com Inc. and Kraft Foods Inc. can translate well to the small, family-owned company that operates in an increasingly competitive market.

“I think coffee is something that is a very habitual purchase,” Volkema said. “It’s a very integral part of a consumer’s day. You want to be there every day if you can be.”

Volkema purchased the roastery from Greta Schuil, the second generation of family ownership who will stay on during the transition and hopes to pursue other interests. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, and Volkema declined to share the company’s annual revenue.

He said all 10 employees plan to remain with the company, which hopes to make two new hires in the coming weeks.

A West Michigan native, Volkema and his family returned to the area about two years ago after living and working in Chicago, New York City and San Francisco. Most recently, he worked as an operating partner at Windquest Group, the family office for Amway scion Dick DeVos and his wife, Betsy DeVos.

But Volkema, who previously founded a restaurant in San Francisco, soon became interested in launching a new entrepreneurial endeavor. He said his work experience and past relationships with members of the Schuil family led him to consider buying the company.

“I was particularly attracted to Schuil because of the experiences that I’ve had previously,” Volkema said of his career. “I probably had more to offer to a business like this than say, some industrial manufacturer.”

Schuil sells its coffees, teas and related products through several channels, including wholesale, private label, retail and corporate accounts. The company also operates a coffee shop and store at its 29th Street location.

The acquisition of Schuil Coffee comes amid increased growth, consolidation and competition in the specialty coffee market, of which the company was one of the early players, especially in West Michigan.

According to the 2017 annual report from the National Coffee Association, 62 percent of Americans now drink coffee on a daily basis, up from 57 percent last year.

“More of us are drinking coffee, and younger consumers appear to be leading the charge,” NCA President and CEO Bill Murray said in a statement. “A steadily growing taste for gourmet varieties is also driving a wider trend toward specialty beverages.”

Dealmaking in the gourmet coffee space has also ramped up in recent years, both nationally and locally.

National brands Stumptown Coffee Roasters of Portland, Ore. and Intelligentsia Coffee Inc. in Chicago were both acquired by Emeryville, Calif.-based Peet’s Coffee & Tea, which is itself owned by a German private equity firm.

Locally, specialty coffee brands like Ferris Coffee & Nut Co., Rowster Coffee Inc. and Madcap Coffee Co. Inc. continue to expand with new cafe locations and additional production space. In particular, Ferris has been active in doing deals, having acquired Kalamazoo-based Lush Gourmet Foods in 2016 and JP’s Coffee in 2014.

“There’s a ton happening in the industry, with ready-to-drink, cold brew,” Volkema said. “A lot more consumers are migrating up the curve with the quality of coffee they want to drink. That’s all good for all those players.”

Given the increasing competition in the industry — from both smaller and larger roasters — Volkema said Schuil Coffee’s longevity will ultimately continue to make the company successful.

“One of the key advantages we have is the long-standing relationships with importers,” Volkema said. “We’ve been in business long enough to get stuff that a new player would have trouble getting.”

Moreover, the new Schuil Coffee owner takes a “rising tide lifts all boats” mentality to the industry, believing that overall growth will be beneficial to all.

“There’s a big enough pie for all of us to be successful,” he said.

Still, Volkema hopes to leverage his experience in other industries to innovate the business model for Schuil.

“I think there’s opportunity for subscription,” he said. “You just want to make things easy and we offer our products online, but there’s probably ways we can do that more effectively.”

In the coming weeks and months, he hopes to implement new technology platforms on the Schuil coffee website aimed at enhancing the user experience.

“I think it’s safe to say I’d definitely like to look at the current e-commerce experience and just take another look at what we’re doing to see if there are upgrades to the program that can be made,” he said. “I’d like to get that platform out there in a broader way.”

In the deal, Volkema worked with Grand Rapids-based law firm Varnum LLP and Echelbarger Himebaugh Tamm & Co. PC (EHTC), a Grand Rapids-based accounting firm.

Zeeland-based M&A consulting firm Rua Associates LLC represented the seller in the deal.

“I’m super glad the entire team is staying on after the transaction,” Volkema said. “A lot of them have been here a long time and customers really shouldn’t expect to notice anything. There should be zero disruption.”

--
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Schuil Coffee was founded 36 years ago, not 35. 

Read 3860 times Last modified on Monday, 24 July 2017 09:16
Nick Manes

Staff writer

nmanes@mibiz.com

Breaking News

December 2017
S M T W T F S
26 27 28 29 30 1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31 1 2 3 4 5 6

Follow MiBiz