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Pablo’s Coffee cultivates longtime employees, customers

Company raises coffee-making to fine art

There are more flavors in coffee than wine. That’s the assessment of Craig Conner, founder of Pablo’s Coffee with three metro Denver retail locations and a wholesale facility.

“There’s a lot of work between harvesting green coffee beans and turning them into coffee,” notes Craig. “We look at a variety of factors, including acidity, flavor, body, sweetness and aroma and assign an overall score between zero and 100. After we’ve quantified empirically, we talk about it.”

To figure out which coffees make the final cut, Craig and his colleagues get heavily involved in “coffee cupping,” defined by Wikipedia as: “…the practice of observing the tastes and aromas of brewed coffee. ... A standard coffee cupping procedure involves deeply sniffing the coffee, then loudly slurping the coffee so it spreads to the back of the tongue.”

Cupping has become such an important part of assessing coffee quality that professional cuppers around the world actually resolve disputes via binding arbitration. “It’s about much more than tasting good,” Craig points out.

In addition to retail, Pablo’s sells to 130 wholesale customers. “We source and import green coffee from three main areas, Africa, Americas and Indonesian islands. Then, we roast, package and distribute to our retail outlets and wholesale customers,” Craig says. “We’re all about coffee. We’re not looking to create elixirs or infuse in-house. We’re happy to roast, and leave everything else to those who buy from us.”

Company cultivates employee longevity Pablo’s offers employees the chance at a career, not just a job. With 30 employees, the firm has about 6% annual turnover, a small fraction of the roughly 50% in the industry overall. And some of that turnover turns into rehires. Notes Mark Chronister, retail operations manager, “It’s special here. People leave, they come back and continue their career here.”

The key to employee loyalty and longevity is time-tested and simple. Notes Mark, who started as a barista and now oversees graphic design (his area of study) and operations, “We pay people a comfortable wage, with health insurance, paid vacation, a 401k, and the opportunity to do more. People build skills for advancement, take on other tasks, train their predecessors. There is no backlash to change jobs. We try to keep people engaged, so their jobs don’t become stale.”

Engaged employees make happy customers Customer service benefits of having happy employees are two-fold: Customer service is better, and customers get to know employees over time, instead of seeing a different face all the time.

Notes Craig, “We have a guest-host model instead of a servant model. We’re the host, customers are the guests. Regulars feel like welcome guests. And relationships get built, both professional and personal friendships.”

Relationship with Lightning Labels, the lightning-fast coffee label digital printing specialist Both Craig and Mark are happy with Lightning Labels and account reps Ryan Tennant and Merle Vigil. They cite “zero problems.” Notes Mark, “They’ve always made it happen, with many rush projects. The turnaround within two to three days is huge for us because we can’t always project near-term needs. We sometimes need labels right away, instead of waiting a month for them to come from overseas. And, the prices are great!”

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