Ones to Watch | By Sabrina Davis
The Scooter’s Coffeehouse name might be new on the national coffee house stage, but the chain is a favorite in Nebraska and Iowa. In those markets, the brand regularly bests Starbucks in consumer choice awards program.
Scooter’s started out as double-drive-thru kiosk concept called Scooter’s Java Express. Don Eckels launched it just outside Omaha, Nebraska, in 1998. In 2002 Eckels began franchising. A year later, he sold three franchises to a man named Tom Townsend. Townsend saw greater potential in Scooter’s and organized a group of partners, including Eckels, to purchase the 15-store chain in 2004. Townsend became the president and CEO and Eckels the vice president of business development.
“We spent 2005 retooling for a national rollout,” says Townsend. “We redesigned the stores, changed the name to Scooter’s Coffeehouse from Java Express, and developed a new logo, all with an eye toward becoming a premium .”
The company describes its new look as “rich, soothing, and contemporary.” The décor now includes wood finishes, tile floors, deep earth tones, and custom furniture and artwork. A circular service area (Townsend, a Star Trek fan, calls it “the mothership”) acts as each store’s focal point. “It’s like a performing center for our baristas,” Townsend says. “They pull every espresso shot; they grind and tamp the coffee by hand; and they don’t just steam the milk, they texturize it, which increases the flavor of the milk tremendously.”
Each store offers customers several areas—tables, cushy lounge areas, and private rooms—in which to enjoy their coffee. “The atmosphere is a reflection of the premium brand,” Townsend says. “We want Scooter’s to be that third space for people, beyond the home and office.”