In a year of historic buy-outs, lay-offs, and bail-outs, an impressive half of the chains celebrating anniversaries in 2009 are still owned by the families that founded them. Half are also still focused on the products that gave them their start, whether it’s chicken wings, pizza, or coffee, bucking dietary trends all the way to the bank. Despite their different segments, these chains have stood fast through economic ups and downs, proving that success comes in all flavors.
Community Coffee Company
Celebrating 90 Years
Number of stores: 30
Headquarters: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
It all started in a general store in Dixie,
Louisiana, where Henry Norman “Cap” Saurage began making and selling coffee, creating, in effect, the area’s first coffee house. He named the coffee “Community” in honor of his hometown and friends. A coffee mill, installed in the backyard barn, followed in 1924, and the family built a roasting plant in 1946.
While Community Coffee Company is best known for its retail product, sold in grocery stores, and service to restaurants, convenience stores, and offices, the company in 1995 perked up with a coffee house chain in New Orleans. Originally called CC’s Coffee House, the name was changed to CC’s Community Coffee House in 2007 to leverage the brand.
The chain’s signature drink is the Mochasippi, a creamy, frozen espresso drink topped with whipped cream. Customers clamor for the Turtle Mochasippi, swirled with chocolate, caramel, and hazelnut. Iced coffees, which require a 12-hour steeping, are also popular. Patrons can also purchase breakfast pastries, savory lunchtime pastries, and paninis, a recent addition. An effort to sell baguettes was not successful—“not in a coffee house,” says Rachel Hull, marketing manager of Community Coffee Company.
But for such a seasoned brand, it’s surprising the company hasn’t ventured into franchising. All its stores are company-owned. “We’re experiencing moderate growth, mainly in southeastern Louisiana,” Hull says. “Wherever our customers want us, that’s where we’ll go.”
Celebrating 75 Years
Number of stores: 508
Baby boomers who grew up along the East Coast undoubtedly remember Tom Carvel’s rough-voiced commercials promoting Cookie Puss, an ice cream–cake face, complete with bug eyes and an ice cream–cone nose. The cakes remain a signature difference for the chain, which Carvel started in Hartsdale, New York. Cookie Puss, Fudgie the Whale, and their friends comprise up to 50 percent of sales, and they’re also sold in more than 10,000 grocery stores.
Carvel, whose strongest daypart is 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., remains an old-fashioned ice cream shop, offering soft serve and hand-dipped treats—all made in the store—along with the cakes. The newest product, Icebergs, marries soft-serve ice cream with well-known sodas, such as Fanta Orange and Barq’s Root Beer. In August, Carvel introduced Oreo Lil’ Rounders, sold in prepackaged 18 packs.
“We start with a limited-time offer and then, depending on the success of the product, add it to the line,” says Gary Bales, president of Carvel.
While mothers and families are traditionally the target audience, Carvel recognizes that seniors are prime ice cream consumers. Meanwhile, tweens are coming on strong. The Icebergs and Carvelanches—ice cream mixed with toppings and served like a shake—were designed to appeal to the latter group, who are accustomed to sipping frozen coffee.
As for growth, Carvel will continue to grow in existing marketplaces. The chain learned the importance of brand identity in the ice cream market when Tom Carvel launched stores in California. “We struggled in those areas for brand recognition,” Bales says. “You need a strong, independent owner-operator. In the Northeast, we have some Carvel stores that have been in the same location for 50 years. We have the opportunity to be a strong regional player. We’re still focusing on so much growth potential.”