Jitterz business model is no small beans
SILVER VALLEY — "Great people, great coffee and community support."
Those are the words Jitterz Espresso owners Laura and Jason Quast want to hear when people talk about their business.
The Quasts are students of the game when it comes to coffee — not just because they operate 11 stands — but because they are literally students of coffee.
“I have worked in the coffee industry since I was 17 years old as a barista,” Laura said. “I fell in love with the art of coffee and serving my communities.”
For some of North Idaho’s more populated areas, Jitterz is a mainstay in the drive-thru coffee industry, and has been for nearly two decades. Now the company is expanding into Shoshone County, with a new stand planned in the budding retail community of Smelterville.
Laura — already familiar with the Silver Valley due to her time as a student in the Kellogg School District before relocating to Coeur d’Alene for her senior year — has 21 years of experience as a barista, including spending time in other countries immersing herself in how coffee goes from ‘seed to cup.’
Jason has been in Coeur d’Alene for 45 years and is also a Coeur d’Alene High School graduate. Married for 18 years, the Quasts have three children.
“I developed a big customer base over the six years in coffee prior to owning my own shop,” Laura said. “My customers encouraged me to go out on my own and they would follow. When the opportunity arose for me to buy Jitterz in 2006 I wasn't going to let it pass me by.”
Laura took that opportunity, even though she and Jason had just begun growing their family when the call came. From the outside, it was the Quasts doing little more than assuming control of an already active business, internally however, it was a lot more difficult.
Laura and Jason put their heads down and turned a dream into the foundation for their ever-growing business.
“I had just had my son, Kaden, and I was working at another shop when the previous owner of the then-one stand called Jitterz asked my husband if I would like to buy her stand,” Laura said. “Of course, I said yes, but it wasn't easy to acquire funding for this as the books were not up to date. So I agreed to work for free for six months until we could get the books in order and get a loan. From there on out, all of our locations all came from people asking us to either take over their struggling businesses or build on their land.”
It’s obvious the model they have followed is a good one. Jitterz Espresso can be found in Post Falls, where they have four locations; Coeur d’Alene, where they are headquartered and operate three locations; as well as single locations in Hayden, Sagle, Rathdrum and Sandpoint.
And there are more to come.
“We are currently working on a fourth Coeur d’Alene location on Northwest Boulevard,” Laura said. “We will be taking over another stand in Lewiston, in March. We have a property in Athol in front of Super 1 Foods we will be developing and plans to open in Spirit Lake in the Jifi Stop parking lot.”
They have some thoughts about how and why they continue to grow in a world full of larger corporate chains with national followings.
“Every opportunity we have gotten has been a door opening for us, one after another,” Laura said. “We have been very blessed by our community seeing our potential and investing in us."
Their growth comes, she said, from reinvesting in their company. They pride themselves on not taking out loans, but instead putting revenue back into the business.
“That is why you see it sometimes takes us six months or more to open locations that otherwise might only take a few months to develop,” Laura said.
Each barista hired by Jitterz gets several weeks of training to make sure the level of quality maintains the standard set by the owners.
“We take pride in furthering our education in coffee and making sure we are providing quality to our customer base,” Laura said. “We are unified and consistent between our stands so you will always get the same quality, customer service, speed and overall experience.”
From a selection standpoint, Jitterz boasts a deep menu.
They offer a full lineup of traditional coffee stand drinks, but also have the extra options to fit almost any diet or dietary restrictions.
For those desiring more than a drink, they’ll build a custom burrito, or they offer loaded bagels.
The Quasts have also prioritized community involvement as part of their regular business practice and moving into the Smelterville area, they have no plans of deviating from that.
“We are so excited to be a part of the Shoshone community. We are excited to provide jobs for the community. We are excited to showcase our love for coffee and community,” Laura said. “We plan on being involved in many different ways from sponsoring schools, sports, and any community needs we can.”
Retail coffee drinks have transitioned from being a luxury to something people budget for and make a part of their daily routine. The Quasts understand this and make it part of their mission to offer products accessible to nearly anyone.
“We pride ourselves in working with people's budgets,” Laura said. “You should be able to treat yourself at an affordable price. We also think coffee is necessary but we might be biased.”
Shoshone County, much like Kootenai County, has a fairly robust drive-thru coffee stand market, but as with anything, the saying goes that competition breeds excellence. Even with that understanding, Laura wants to make sure the other coffee stands know Jitterz wants to be part of the Silver Valley coffee community, not hinder it.
“We are aware there are many other local coffee companies located nearby and we are excited to meet them and maybe team up on some community projects,” Laura stated. “And with that we are excited to provide people with options for coffee. Everyone should have multiple options as we know we aren't always people's first option.”
The Quasts embrace their local roots – and hope that other people will too.
“We are literally a mom and pop stand that grew from opportunity over the years,” Laura said. “My husband and I work tirelessly day in and day out to make sure our 128 employees are happy, heard, and taken care of. We have a great employee rapport. We have had employees for as long as 16 years. They are the face of our company, and it is our job to make sure they are happy.”
Core values are important to the Quasts.
“Compassion is how we run our business and is at the top of our company goals,” Laura said. “We are a Christian-owned company, and we want to show God's love through our compassion for our customers. We build relationships with our many loyal customers and we surround them with love when they are in need.”
They plan to finish up the permitting process and break ground this spring for their new Shoshone County stand.
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