Our story is unique and not what you would expect. This is not a giant coffee company. It has never been bought or sold, it has no shareholders, and our only partners are who we do business with. This story starts with the founder, Kevin Wiesehan, an Aeronautical Engineer at Boeing Aircraft who remains the original and sole owner of the business. While working in St. Louis, he was sent to Seattle, Washington to help a Boeing supplier who was having difficulties producing some aircraft parts. He fell in love with Seattle, the Mountains, the clean air and the stunning National Geographic scenery that Seattle has to offer and yes, the coffee. The Boeing supplier who he had come to help, offered him a position as the C-17 Program Manager, and the transplant to Seattle was complete. Kevin got Married and lived in Seattle for 3 years during the early 90’s. He was working 100 hrs. a week. It is here our story begins as he witnessed the start of the coffee phenomenon in Seattle, he became a drive thru junkie and dreamt of leaving it all to bring this Coffee Craze home to St. Louis.
The Aircraft business instills a passion for quality in a person. Every process is documented, every error is defined and fixed, every nonconformance is rationalized. Each part of the process is over-thought, over-engineered, and 3 times stronger and better than the requirement. Money is no object for quality. It's not suprising that these ideas became the foundation of Brevé Coffee®.
In 1994 Mr. Wiesehan left Seattle, his job and his career in Aeronautics. He and his wife moved back home to start The Brevé Espresso Company® and bring something new to St. Louis. On March 5, 1995 they opened in 300 sq. feet of the Paul Brown Building in Downtown St. Louis with a walk-up window and became St. Louis’ First Espresso Bar. This was Seven years before Starbucks came to the St. Louis area. The first day in business was terrible. There was an armed robbery in the building, it was was roped off and they did $58 in total sales and it went down hill from there. Nobody knew what a latté was in St. Louis in 1995, and he nor his wife could give them away. The shop was tiny but beautiful with restored 1906 wood floors and doors, mirrors and Syrup bottles that looked like wine to everyone else. But the owners never looked back.
Day after day the founder, his wife and his father struggled to make each day at least $1 better than the day before. They did, and very slowly the business improved. They introduced St. Louis to the first Panini Press Sandwich later in 1995, and business continued to grow slowly. Every night the founder would chart what little sales there were, planned advertising and developed a training manual. His wife would ask "Why are you making a training manual, you have no one to train". "But I will have" was the response, and when I do, I'll be ready. The 100 hr. work week had become the norm. By the end of the first year they had a whopping 3 employees and customers lined up around the building, but the competition was emanating and taking notes.
It wasn't long before coffee shops were popping up all over downtown St. Louis. Loyal customers who had been marveled by the success of Brevé were opening stores of their own. While frightening, their entrance into the coffee market seems to have little effect on Brevés business. With dreams of their own, they too launched head first into business. While many of them looked great upon opening, it became obvious that they lacked the structure to withstand the distructful test of time. Brevé continued to work as hard as ever inventing new products and recipes, systems and proceedures while roasting the finest coffee they could source. The long term engineering strenghts in the founder became evident as he defined what specialty coffee was. The words Specialty, Gourmet and all the other colorful words used to describe coffee were being overused and without any definition. It was though everyone was decribing themselves this way and still do.
Because Coffee is the #2 traded commodity in the world next to oil, Brevé created their own definition of "Specialty Coffee" nearly twenty years ago this way; It's is mountainous grown where heavy equipment is unable to be used. It is shade grown and truly hand picked and washed. It is sundried in shallow patios and hand raked. It is sorted by hand, bean by bean. It is screened in size to within 1/64th of an inch. Brevé then only pruchases these high grown, hand picked, sundried, washed, hand sorted, screened coffees at 17/64 and 18/64th of an inch with 0 defects per 1000 beans. There are no anomolies, no forigien objects, no under sized or oversized beans, no single or triple lobed beans and all at 12.5% moisture content. They are uniform in color, shape, size, density and moisture content. It is this underlying engineered quality blended from each growing region that quietly produces the most inticing, flavorful, smooth and robust coffee that then takes on its own romantic identy.
Brevé then took their uniquely blended top 1% coffees and coupled them with the expertise for long term success and produced business resources that extends far beyond coffee. A person can have a great passion for coffee, but without structure, that passion will only go so far. Today, to withstand a fiercly financed and competitive coffee market it takes more than passion and dedication, it takes educated know how.
Someone who makes a fantastic sandwich should not necessarly open a retail deli. You must have a truly great product, but to stay in business and compete, a business will need stratigies in Cost of Goods, Marketing, Labor, Store Management, Finance & Banking, Accounting, Legal, Point of Sale Systems, Advertising and the list continues.