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Dutch Bros. opens 10th

Coffee business grows in competitive market

Cream or sugar in that, bro? Jackson Hite asks a customer who's ordered a cup of Wicked Coffee at the Dutch Bros. stand off Riverside Avenue.

The tunes of the Supertones are subdued for a pending shift change, a switch for Dutch Bros. stands that generally burst with music. But the upbeat employee banter, often sprinkled with bro and dude, remains.

— — BUSINESS CARD

Name: Dutch Bros.

Service: Coffee stands

Location: Ten sites in Medford and Grants Pass

Owners: Dane and Travis Boersma, Marty McKenna

Number of employees: 60 — —

Oh yeah, it's a blast, says Hite when asked if he enjoys working the stand. People are usually cool to you if you're cool to them.

The festive attitude and laid-back approach -- along with quality coffee -- have helped Dutch Bros. build a Southern Oregon coffee kingdom.

The Grants Pass-based company will open its fourth drive-through in Medford this week, raising the chain's total to eight company- owned locations and two quasi-franchised ones.

The company was founded in 1992 by Dane and Travis Boersma, whose Dutch heritage inspired the name. Since its inception, it's grown to 60 employees.

Marty McKenna brought it to Medford in 1996, opening a franchised stand on Biddle Road near the north Medford interchange.

It just took off like gangbusters, McKenna says of the stand. So I wanted to do another one.

He opened the Riverside Avenue location to similar success.

Things were going so well in Medford that the Boersmas agreed to make McKenna a partner in late 1997 with the idea that he'd expand the Medford operations.

He's done just that. A third stand, off West McAndrews Road, opened last year and a fourth, at the corner of East Main Street and Hawthorne Avenue, is set to open Tuesday or Wednesday.

Now sales in Medford are about equal to those in Grants Pass, where the company has a full-scale coffee house, two drive-through trailers and a cart inside Fred Meyer.

The company's coffee, roasted daily in Grant Pass, is also sold at Uncommon Grounds in Ashland and Shady Cove Espresso.

The fourth Medford stand will give the company a presence along most of the city's commuting routes.

We really needed to cover the east side, says McKenna. That's what attracted us.

The morning traffic is where we do our volume. There's a three-hour window when you do the bulk of your sales.

Dutch Bros. is far from alone in the competition to fulfill customers' morning caffeine craze. Even though coffee outlets seem to be popping up everywhere, McKenna isn't concerned.

We thought about it briefly, he says when asked about the high number of shops in downtown Medford. We just really focus on being the best and let the chips fall.

The market is growing. People are still trying espresso for the first time, even today. Somewhere it may reach saturation but there's still room for growth.

McKenna says more growth is coming for the company. Two more drive-throughs will open in Grants Pass in the next six months and the company is considering full-scale franchises.

But, he says, neither he nor the Boersma brothers are obsessed with building a giant, profitable company.

The business concept has never been one of how do we make more money, he says. We don't talk about it much.

The low-key approach is passed down to employees, making the bright banter and music-filled stands just part of the company's image. The stands feature built-in radios -- including mute buttons so orders can be heard -- and the lively atmosphere is encouraged.

That's in our mission statement, to have the places upbeat, McKenna says. Of course, having coffee readily available (to the employees) doesn't hurt.

People realize that we are having fun with it and they enjoy it. We don't take ourselves too seriously.

Skip Grant of Grant Construction in Grants Pass adds lights to the newest Dutch Bros. Coffee drive-up booth at East Main and Hawthorne streets in Medford. - By DAVID PRESZLER