It seems like ages ago, considering where his company is now. Larry Stitts began his foray into coffee roasting just over seven years ago, practicing in his spare time out of a small office he had in Buffalo’s Tri-Main Center while working toward his roastmaster certification.
Now, business is really beginning to percolate for Golden Cup Coffee, the company Stitts and his wife, Jacqueline Stover-Stitts, run. They’ve been providing bean-born refreshment for students at the University at Buffalo and SUNY Buffalo State, as well as Erie County Medical Center and numerous restaurants and offices across the region.
What’s more, Golden Cup moved its roasting and café operation to a new location at the corner of East Delavan and Jefferson avenues on Buffalo’s East Side. Customers can grab a cup of joe to stay or go, along with tea and other beverages, plus gourmet sandwiches.
Golden Cup was also recently selected to be the exclusive coffee provider at UB’s new Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences building on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The building officially opened this month. When students, faculty, and staff arrive for the first classes in the facility in January, they’ll be able to sip on Golden Cup’s signature Buffalo Roast.
The dark roasted coffee is one of three signature roasts that Stitts created, and is among the company’s most popular. The other two are African Gold, a blend of Kenyan, Ethiopian, and Tanzanian Arabica beans that pays homage to the continent on which the coffee bean was first discovered; and the Latin American All-Star, a blend of coffees from South America that recognizes Buffalo’s Latino/a community. They also make a variety of flavored coffees, including Jamaican Me Crazy.
In addition to whole bean and pre-ground bagged coffees, Golden Cup also packages in K-cups for single-serve brewing machines like the Keurig coffeemaker.
“We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go. After existing on life support for a little while, we’re starting to see the sun now,” says Stover-Stitts, who manages the Golden Cup’s business and marketing side. The company hopes to expand to other major institutions and restaurants across Western New York.
Stitts believes that will happen as more people try Golden Cup’s product line. “I’d put my product and service up against anyone’s,” he says. “Everybody roasts coffee. It comes from the same bean. My Colombian bean is no different than the next guy’s Colombian bean. It’s the things you do with that bean that make you unique.”
Golden Cup is also unique in that they can meet with clients and develop a coffee profile that meets their desired taste. “We do the profile roasting and we can please just about everyone and help them find something they enjoy,” Stover-Stitts says. Golden Cup is currently working on a profile for a coffeehouse in Tulsa, Okla.
Stitts conducted taste tests for UB students a few years ago when Golden Cup was offered the opportunity to supply coffee in two buildings on the university’s South Campus: Goodyear dining facility and Harriman Hall. “The Buffalo Roast won out,” he says. “They really like that Buffalo Roast.”
Stitts and his wife are grateful for the opportunity UB provided them. The chance arose a few years ago when they met UB President Satish K. Tripathi at an event at UB’s Arthur O. Eve Educational Opportunity Center. The university was looking to include more minority and women-owned businesses in its operations, especially on the medical campus.
Goodyear and Harriman on the South Campus were Golden Cup’s trial run with UB. “We were fairly new in the business, so to get an opportunity like that was huge for us,” Stitts says.
“I must say we appreciate President Tripathi’s commitment and that he kept his word,” Stover-Stitts added.
They’re looking forward to the opportunity to serve the approximately 2,000 students, faculty, and staff who will be in the Jacobs School at UB each day. “We’re elated. It’s a huge help for our business,” Stitts says.
While Golden Cup is beginning to enjoy more success, challenges remain. “The hardest thing about breaking in the business is your branding and getting your name out there, getting people to recognize it and appreciate your product,” says Stover-Stitts. “It’s a huge challenge just to be able to compete with the big names like Tim Hortons and Starbucks pricewise, unless you’re providing water.”
There’s also the challenge of managing a business’ day-to-day operations, which is why Stover-Stitts advises prospective entrepreneurs to “be prepared for the sacrifice” it takes to run a successful operation and ride the ebb and flow that comes with being in the food service industry. “One day, you’ll have 50 people for breakfast, and the next day, it’s like ‘What happened?’” she says.
The corner spot at E. Delavan and Jefferson will help Golden Cup broaden its visibility, particularly in the East Side community, something that was important to Stitts. “We wanted the opportunity to serve the East Side of Buffalo and become a destination for everybody. There aren’t many coffeehouses on this side of town,” he says. “Being close to the medical campus is huge for us, too.”
Stitts roasts all coffee on site several times a week using his trusty Ozturk roaster. “You know the coffee coming out of here is fresh,” he says. “It doesn’t sit on the shelf for weeks.”