BIGGBY COFFEE third career for new owners

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From The Rockford Squire


Store opens with week of free brewed coffee


Bob Sorum and Rich Barnes have been looking forward to their own coffee shop for over a decade. Their new Biggby Coffee shop will open at 2745 Ten Mile Road—the former location of a discount bread store—on Tuesday, November 17. Sorum and Barnes used to be neighbors to the founders of the coffee franchise, Bob Fish and Mary Roszel. They recall being served by the two at the first Biggby Coffee in Lansing in 1995. Now the Michigan company has over 100 stores, up from five in 2000.


The coffee shop has hired its staff of 22 and began training on Monday, November 9. With a location visible from US-131 and in front of the Rockford Meijer, Sorum and Barnes don’t believe they will be taking any business from the existing coffee shops in downtown Rockford. In fact, they have already taken the time to become acquainted with many of Rockford’s other businesses and plan to be very involved with the community.


“We have already been to Genesis. We have been having dinner at Sam’s Joint and love the ribs. Grill One Eleven is our favorite restaurant,” said Barnes. “We don’t think we are going to compete with downtown. We won’t get the shoppers or the riverwalk people. I think we’ll get along.”


The shop’s location, on the west end of a new strip mall with frontage to US-131, is an ideal one, Sorum believes. He said the two had planned on opening up a Biggby after closing their travel agency. They scouted out different towns in the area and fell in love with Rockford. A different coffee tenant had committed to the location but opted out, and Barnes and Sorum were quick to snap up the space. “We waited almost a year and a half for this location,” Barnes said. “We spotted the potential right away.”


With a fireplace, 47-inch television and WiFi, the Biggby will offer a place to grab a quick cup of something hot or cold or an opportunity to take a break from driving. “We encourage people to come in and get some work done—or to just take a break,” Barnes said.


The store is 1,500 square feet with seating for 20 at tables and six more in comfortable plush lounge chairs. In addition to coffee, sales will include fresh brewed teas, lattes, café au laits, cappuccinos, chai, chilled drinks, crème freezes, non-coffee drinks, goodies to go such as muffins and cakes, and some desserts. Cards, cups, kids menus and catering are also among the Biggby offerings.


Both Barnes and Sorum had other careers before this venture. Sorum was an accountant for 13 years before opening the travel agency. Barnes is an engineer with 20 years in construction and 20 with the travel agency. “Now we are going into coffee, something entirely different,” Barnes said. Both think it’s interesting to have had three careers in their lifetime.


“To be honest, the reason we wanted to open a coffee shop is for the interaction, the people coming into the door,” said Barnes. “I’m old enough, I could retire if I wanted to, but I don’t.”


Not only aren’t the two ready to retire, they are planning to work—very hard. “The Biggby will be open daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. all but two days a year. We won’t be open Christmas or Thanksgiving. Those are family holidays and we don’t want to subject our employees to working those days,” said Sorum. They have seen businesses fail due to absentee owners and won’t make that mistake. “We plan on working nine- and ten-hour days,” said Sorum. “Maybe one of us will be the morning person and the other the night one. We don’t mind long hours, we’re used to that.”


The hard work began even before the doors open to the public. “You’d be amazed the stuff that comes into a store like this,” said Barnes of the boxes, stacks of equipment and product that they have spent the last week putting away. “We’ve cleaned the place ten times already.”


Biggby on Ten Mile Road will open Tuesday, November 17, and for the first week will offer free fresh brewed coffee to everyone who walks in the door.


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