When Bob Fish and Mary Roszel decided to open a coffee shop in East Lansing 15 years ago, many people wondered if it would be a profitable business endeavor.
“When we first started, there were many other coffee shops in the area,” Roszel said. “People would come up, put their hand on my shoulder and ask, ‘Are you sure it’s going to be OK? Are you going to make it?’”
On Monday, Roszel and Fish proved their doubters wrong by celebrating Biggby Coffee’s 15th anniversary and offering free tall drinks to Biggby E-ward members at any participating store. In addition, a birthday party was held at the original Biggby shop at 270 W. Grand River Ave.
Roszel, Fish and several of their business partners attended the party, and customers could receive a free drink of any size from 8 a.m. to noon.
Customers went in and out of the original Biggby all morning to receive a free coffee and help celebrate the occasion.
“We definitely expected a lot of people, we just didn’t know how busy it would be,” said Jessica Belen, a corporate trainer and barista at the original Biggby. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many people here. It’s really cool and exciting.”
The turnout could not have been better, said Fish. He was excited to see so many people he remembered from when Biggby first started.
“For me, it’s awesome to be at the original store,” said Fish. “What I liked is being able to hang out and see people that I served drinks to between ’95 and ’97, say hello and talk about Biggby stories.”
Roszel agreed that coming back to where it all began for Biggby was important to her, but her favorite part was showing those who doubted her that she knew what she was doing the whole time.
“I never lost confidence that we would be successful, and it’s nice to come back and see those people that didn’t believe me again,” she said with a smile.
Since opening in 1995, Biggby Coffee has expanded from one shop in East Lansing to 107 in five states. Although some coffee chains are forced to close shops, Biggby is opening three more in the next 45 days, Fish said.
Fish attributes his company’s success and ability to reach the 15-year milestone to its simplicity.
“One of the things we did differently when we opened was we tended to make coffee less intimidating than most places,” he said. “A lot of people do this whole Euro chic and fancy-pants names. We call things caramel marbles and teddy bears, and our business is much more approachable.”
Along with making it easy for customers to order, Roszel said Biggby prides itself on customer service. She said the baristas at Biggby are taught to be friendly and get to know their customers.
Ben Newman, a senior at East Lansing High School, said friendliness brings him to Biggby on a regular basis, and Biggby giving away free coffee to customers mirrors the coffee chain’s typical customer service.
“It’s awesome,” Newman said. “It’s kind of like it’s my birthday. I love it.”