Casa Bonita is getting a new neighbor in the Lamar Station Plaza. With a tentative opening set for April, the Oregon-based Dutch Bros Coffee is currently constructing its first metro-area outpost at 6671 West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood.
The coffee drive-thru chain was founded in 1992 in the small town of Grants Pass by brothers Dane and Travis Boersma, who were — you guessed it — of Dutch descent. After being forced to sell the cows of their family's three-generation dairy business, the brothers began roasting coffee from the vacant barn. “One of the most rewarding things in this change of occupation was going from smelling cow manure to smelling coffee,” said Dane, in a quote on the Dutch Bros website. “You’d open the bag, and it was like heaven.”
They sold the coffee from a pushcart in front of the post office in their small town, and in time the business grew in popularity, mostly by word of mouth. Now there are more than 290 locations in seven states.
Colorado is currently home to eight Dutch Bros outlets, with six in Colorado Springs, which regional operator David Szopa has managed since 2011. He recently made the move to Denver to open the Lakewood location.
According to Szopa, many fans drive down to the Springs from Denver specifically to get Dutch Bros coffee. "We get a lot of people that travel out here and move [to Colorado] that already know about us," he says.
Szopa, who has been with the company for more than a decade, attributes the customer loyalty to several things. First, "We know that we're not our customer's final destination — everyone's on their way somewhere, so speed is a big part of our service," he says. Customers can expect to spend about thirty to sixty seconds in line after placing their order. Next to speed, Szopa credits service and "providing a good experience for the short time that they're there." Almost all of the stores operate out of a small, kiosk-style drive-thru with a pedestrian walk-up window and covered outdoor seating (think Good Times), reminiscent of the original Dutch Bros.
If you haven't been to a Dutch Bros in Colorado Springs, Loveland, Fort Collins or somewhere on the West Coast, expect fast service. Don't be surprised if an employee approaches your car to take your order before you even get to the window, especially on a busy morning.
Also expect menu items that include coffee-based drinks made with coffee roasted in Grants Pass (though the operation has since moved out of the barn), mochas made with a signature blend of chocolate milk, and a small selection of pastries including muffin tops, which Szopa claims is "the best part of the muffin, of course."
And don't be surprised by the loud music. Like the original coffee van, locations today play Led Zeppelin and other rock music while selling coffee. "Our culture is we are friendly, upbeat and high energy," says Szopa. "Our culture is love. Love people and love each other."
Speaking of love, you can also expect a company that gives back. Dutch Bros established Love Abounds in 2005; after co-founder Dane was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the company also created Drink One for Dane. One day a year, all proceeds from sales go to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association to support ALS research and family services. Dane passed away in 2009, but his legacy lives on. In 2017, Dutch Bros raised over one million dollars for MDA.
And while it may be Valentine's Day to most, at Dutch Bros Coffee it's referred to as "Dutch Luv Day," and all locations donate one dollar form every drink sold to a local food bank organization. Last year four locations in Colorado Springs raised almost $7,000 for the Springs Rescue Mission. Szopa cites the company's commitment to giving back to its community as an additional reason for the loyal customer base, dubbed the "Dutch Mafia." For updates on construction, opening date and job opportunities, visit the Dutch Bros Lakewood Facebook page.
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