National co-branding projects pairing coffee-makers and related businesses, like Caribou Coffee working with Einstein Bros. Bagels or Starbucks inside Target stores, have long been a familiar sight.
In a recent local trend, several Rochester coffee businesses are following a similar path, creating partnerships with the goal of strengthening both operations and getting both brands more recognition.
Here are some examples these collaborations:
• Coffee from Fiddlehead Coffee Co., which has gourmet cafe at 412 Third Ave. SE, can be found at Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse, Cameo At The Castle, Bleu Duck Kitchen, the architect offices of HGA and other Rochester businesses.
• Coffee from Old Abe Coffee Co., which has a shop at 832 Seventh St. NW and a popular downtown coffee cart, provides coffee at the Nerdin Out comic and pop culture store and the People's Food Co-op.
• Staff from Lumen Coffee, which has a drive-thru shop at 3550 55th St. NW, are serving up its coffee at the new south location of Daube's Cakes and Bakery.
• Café Steam, which has two downtown locations plus a third one in the pipeline, plans to collaborate with the Thesis Beer Project brewery when it opens in the near future.
Patrick Phelan, an owner of Fiddlehead, said these local partnerships strengthen Rochester's economy.
"It allows them to focus on what they do well and for us to focus on what we do well," he said. "The whole idea is that Starbucks … and other nationals are not going to do that. They don't care if they devour local business."
Fiddlehead, which buys carefully sourced coffee internationally and roasts it Rochester, has long been an advocate of collaboration. Buying larger orders of coffee beans means a better price for everyone.
But what about the overlap of competition for some of the businesses?
"This market is more than big enough and there are enough coffee drinkers here for all of us to do really well. It doesn't need to be competitive," said Phelan.
Coffee and comics
When the owners of Nerdin Out were recently moving their shop to a new, larger location at 1802 Second St. SW, they were looking to give customers more reasons to spend time and money in their business.
That led them to reach out to Abe Sauer of Old Abe's Coffee.
"A lot of people who read comics also drink coffee … we wanted to have something different," said co-owner Brad Vigesa. "We'd heard he has some of the best coffee in town. It made more sense to work with somebody locally that knows what they are doing."
Setting up a tap of his Nitro cold brew coffee at Nerdin Out also made sense for Sauer.
"I can see the value in partnering with a small operator and strengthening the backbone of unique businesses in Rochester. These kinds of partnerships are as much about creating an ecosystem of localism as they are about sales," wrote Sauer. "For example, nobody sees a Wings Street in a Pizza Hut, or a Caribou in an Einstein’s and thinks the team-up is about anything more than synergistic corporate profit. But you see a couple local businesses team up in some way and it’s cool to know they are working to complement each other."
Cakes and coffee
Lumen's partnership with Daube's bakery is a more traditional pairing of coffee and doughnuts or cake.
However, Lumen owner Bryce Fogelson approached the pairing with a different model than the other local Rochester coffee partnerships.
After buying a wedding cake from them, Fogelson reached out to Daube's about working together. The restaurant was in the process of opening a new location at 1600 S. Broadway.
Instead of training Daube's employees to serve coffee and add to their duties, he offered up his own team to handling the brewing.
When the new Daube's opened recently, customers saw both Lumen employees behind the counter with the bakery's staff.
"We deal with all of the coffee side things, so they (Daube's staff) can do what they are good at," he said.
This is not Fogelson's first business collaboration. Customers were asking for breakfast sandwiches at his northwest coffee drive-through. He reached out to Hy-Vee foods in Rochester and they still continue to supply breakfast sandwiches.
While seeing two local businesses working together in a co-branded situation is still kind of novel, Phelan says such new partnerships reinforce a very old concept.
"We truly believe a rising tide raises all boats … We want the city of Rochester to succeed, not just us," he said.