Family time with frappuccinos
Sisters’ Brew boasts three on-campus locations at the University of Idaho and has plans for a fourth by spring 2013, but co-owners Tim and Gina Rich are ready to put the spotlight back on family.“We opened this to be a family and we’re starting to get too big,” Tim Rich said. “We’re too busy to do anything but work in the shop all day, then go home and sleep.”
The Rich family put the original Sisters’ Brew in downtown Moscow up for sale in an effort to focus on campus locations. Tim Rich said the Main Street site will remain a family-owned coffee shop and two potential buyers have showed interest.
“We’re under no illusions that it’s going to sell quickly,” he said. “We still enjoy the shop.”
Sisters Ashley and Dallas Rich, the coffee shops’ namesakes, will take the reins as the business shifts toward campus clientele.
Dallas Rich, 19, has spent much of her time since the semester began in Sisters’ Brew’s newest location — the Campus Christian Center.
“We’re three weeks into this location and business is picking up,” she said. “I’m seeing new people in here every morning.”
The CCC contacted Sisters’ Brew during the summer about opening a satellite shop in the building’s basement. Sisters’ Brew employees painted the walls, renovated the seating and service area and stocked the space with drink flavors.
“One espresso machine was already here,” Dallas Rich said. “The rest of the stuff we brought in.”
Cozy chairs and bistro tables characterize the chain’s downtown location, but on-the-go service has become the norm for on-campus shops. Employee Brian Kelly said UI students and employees who patronize Sisters’ Brew in the Administration Building appreciate grab-and-go coffee.
“It’s more of a focus on quick service than quiet seating,” Kelly said. “That seems like how people on campus want it.”
The CCC, located on the corner of University Avenue and Elm Street, is equipped with space and seating to supplement the loss of the downtown shop. Tim Rich said it will become the main location as other satellites open. Business there has exceeded his expectations, but he said it’s not yet making the profit he hopes it will.
“The biggest challenge of the stands in the CCC and law building is that people think they can’t go in unless they already have business there,” Tim Rich said.
The former computer programmer moved his family from Texas to Moscow in 2006 to prioritize togetherness. His two-hour commute and his wife’s realty job made family time too rare for their liking.
“Our family never saw each other and we needed to change something,” he said.
So they took an online survey that directed them to Moscow, learned espresso skills from some of the industry’s best and opened Sisters’ Brew in March 2007.
Sisters’ Brew appeared in the Administration Building in 2010, the law building the following year and most recently the CCC. Dallas Rich said moving on-campus was always in the business plan, and her father said he wanted to expand the business so it could support a growing family. On-campus food provider Sodexo takes a percentage of profits, as does the off-campus CCC.
“We really enjoy working with (Sodexo),” Tim Rich said. “It’s everything we could ask for business-wise.”
The corporation monitors all food and beverage sales on campus and has a working relationship with outside providers like Sisters’ Brew and Einstein Bros.’ Bagels. When leaders from UI’s engineering department contacted Sodexo about opening a coffee shop across from the auditorium in the Janssen Engineering Building, company officials referred them to the Rich family. Another Sisters’ Brew stand is scheduled to open there by spring 2013.
“It was supposed to open sooner, but they’re working on a sound-proofing arrangement since the auditorium doors stay open,” Tim Rich said. “It’s kind of complicated, but engineers enjoy that sort of thing.”
As more stands open, Tim Rich said he and his wife will step back from the coffee counter to strategize and improve the business while their daughters manage daily service. The sisters work primarily at on-campus stands, and Dallas Rich said she enjoys talking to students.
“I like working on campus,” Dallas Rich said. “We hadn’t originally planned on closing (the downtown shop), but we’re looking to open more.”
An impending change of ownership has not dampened business on Main Street, Tim Rich said, and he hopes customers will transition smoothly to sipping coffee and sitting cozily beneath a new family’s name.
“We have a lot of regulars (downtown) … some that just come in and sit down that know we’ll bring their drink,” Tim Rich said. “We know the people and we try to give them good service.”
Vicky Hart can be reached at email@example.com