03/19/2013 03:47PM ● Published by Kerri Regan
Story: Kerri Regan
The Resners Serve More Than Just a Cup of Joe
Chris and Erin Resner know it’s not tough to make a cup of coffee. Grind some fresh beans, brew up a steamy cup, maybe fancy it up with a little milk, soy or flavored syrup. Lots of places do it, cup after cup, around the clock.
But their coffee has a special ingredient – an ingredient that hooks people and keeps them coming back, day after day, week after week.
It’s called Dutch Love, and it’s embodied by the friendly faces that peek out of the windows of the five Redding Dutch Bros. shops.
“In today’s fast-paced world, people long for that one or two minutes of conversation,” Resner says. “Our employees love seeing the same people and getting to know them.”
The couple admits being “really picky” about who they hire. They don’t want somebody who just looks good on a resume, or who can turn on the charm. They want genuinely upbeat, compassionate, friendly people, Erin Resner says.
“You can’t teach them to care about how somebody’s day is,” says Erin, 23, who met Chris at Bible study and married him two years ago.
The Resners’ commitment to unparalleled excellence has paid off for the community. In May, they raised $14,423 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Q97-FM’s “Live In It to Win It” contest, which Resner won. The grand prizes were a 2008 truck and a patio boat, and he plans to sell the truck and donate the proceeds to Make-A-Wish after he pays the taxes on both prizes.
“I was amazed by all of our customers and everybody who came out to donate,” Resner says. “I know these are tough times and it was really touching to see how many people gave to Make-A-Wish.”
His shops have also donated thousands of dollars to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and a few years ago, the Resners donated a day’s worth of sales to Redding resident John Piazza, who suffered a spinal cord injury after a motorcycle crash. Staff donated their time and tips. People waited in line to donate. They raised more than $13,000 for the Piazza family.
“He’d been hired a week before the accident. It broke my heart,” says Resner, 32. “And the way he took it was so neat, like, ‘This isn’t gonna hold me back.’”
Even when Resner had just started his business, and barely had two dimes to rub together, he didn’t hesitate to buy yearbook ads, raffle tickets, Girl Scout cookies – whatever local kids were selling.
It’s a lesson he learned from being on the other side. Resner began working at an Oregon Dutch Bros. in 1997, and when he went away to art school in Pasadena a few years later, he realized there were no drive-through coffee shops there. The Dutch Bros. owners weren’t ready to open a shop all the way down in Southern California – at the time, the southernmost shop was in Grants Pass – so Resner created a business plan to open his own drive-through coffee shop.
“I sent out about 100 business plans to private investors, but I was a young guy with nothing but a car,” he says.
About 18 months later, the Dutch Bros. owners in Oregon were ready to branch out into California, and Resner was tired of living down south. “I was driving up to Oregon and I met a buddy for lunch in Redding… I got all kinds of ideas.”
Two weeks later, he moved back to Oregon and channeled his energy into developing a plan to open a Redding Dutch Bros. That buddy from Redding found him a room to rent and a job as a night courier; he spent his days talking to “every bank in town.” He finally convinced an Oregon investor to give him a loan.
Then he started proving himself.
In April 2004, he opened his first shop on Churn Creek Road (now the franchise’s highest-grossing kiosk), and he and four employees covered every shift. While his future wife finished her degree in Santa Barbara, he focused his energy on developing the business.
“I’d work in here every day. I enjoyed being in here,” he says, standing inside the Churn Creek kiosk. “It was tough to make the transition from that role to managing.”
His efforts paid off. He secured a Small Business Association loan and paid back the initial investor, and he now employs 45 people in his five shops (the Red Bluff Dutch Bros. is owned by his father-in-law, Doug Fairey).
“We totally have been blessed,” Resner says. “The fact that we can give back and help out totally blesses us.”