A Brew Attitude

It takes more than your average Joe to go up against the likes of Starbucks.

By April Y. Pennington

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Though John and MaryAnn Larson, 39 and 40, respectively, sold their chain of muffler shops and left Chicago to retire in Windsor, Colorado, their franchising days were far from over. Despite John's protests, MaryAnn wanted to open a coffeehouse in their new town. With the help of a designer, she brought her vision to fruition and won John over.

Why would the Larsons enter the specialty-coffee market dominated by Starbucks, with more than 7,000 company-owned locations?

"By Starbucks' own admission,they only control 7 percent of the [U.S. coffee] market," John says. The Larsons see a wide-open space in the market that's just waiting to be filled with their franchises.

The first Capri Coffee Break was opened in April 2000. Customers experience a nicely decorated interior, not unlike that of Starbucks; but the Larsons maintain that what sets them apart is the friendly atmosphere, where, like Cheers, "everybody knows your name." The Larsons have made friends with customers and even spent holidays with them. "We know customers' drinks before they get to the register," boasts John. "Repeat business is getting bigger and bigger."

While a "Kookie Monster" drink made with Oreo cookies welcomes children, the Larsons also see plenty of businesspeople holding meetings and college students using the free wireless Internet.

With 20 franchises open and 52 under development nationwide, these franchisors are confident about their potential for expansion. "We don't have a name like Starbucks," John admits, "but everyone wants a choice. Here in Colorado, we're very recognizable."

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