When asked what wakes her up in the morning, Vicki Wilson’s answer is immediate: getting that first cup of coffee!
“Truly, that is the first thing I do,” she says. “I say, what am I going to brew today? Because we have over 100 different flavors. I’m not crabby or anything, I’m really kind of a nut.”
Vicki is the owner and CEO of Door County Coffee & Tea Company, based in Carlsville, Wisconsin. When Door County Coffee started in 1993, exactly 25 years ago, making a quality coffee product was the number one goal.
“There wasn’t as much gourmet or premium coffee on the market and we felt that Door County businesses were really known for quality,” Vicki says. “We thought this would be a great opportunity for us to provide coffee, which would be an upgrade, and help our local clients. So the original plan was to serve a better quality coffee to deserving clients up here.”
The business only grew from there. In 1993, Door County Coffee was renting space and had two employees. Now, the company hires 60 people and owns its own building, which has undergone no less than four expansions throughout the years. There’s a lot to be proud of, but Vicki is most proud of the people.
“As we grew the business, we realized we’re not just making coffee, we’re growing people,” she says. “These people have such a passion and care for what they do, whether its serving our customers in our cafe or retail store, or the guys roasting our coffee, or our innovators coming up with new flavors, or our order fulfillment team trying to get orders out, or our sales team trying to sell our product to customers. They all believe and want to do the best job they possibly can.”
That passion even extends to Vicki’s customers.
The One Hundred Dollar Club
A couple years ago, a young woman came in with a $100 bill and instructions to get coffee. It was a busy day in the store, and the woman ended up losing the money somewhere in the crowd. Vicki walked around the store and asked her customers if they had seen the $100 bill. No one had found it.
“We took [the young woman’s] name and number and said please don’t worry, it could have gotten kicked with all these people,” Vicki says.
The next morning, four women who had been in the shop the day before approached Vicki individually. They each asked if she found the young woman’s money—no, Vicki said—then handed Vicki $25 to pass on.
“I was so beside myself over the goodness of these people,” Vicki says. “I go in our kitchen and I’m telling our kitchen staff, ‘You’re not going to believe what these random strangers did for this lady who lost the money.’ ”
Those four women were dubbed The One Hundred Dollar Club, but they weren’t the only ones to donate their own money to the young woman. The dishwasher at Door County Coffee’s cafe also wanted to contribute his tip money from the summer. A couple months later, an envelope with no return address arrived in the mail with a $100 bill inside. Since the young woman already regained her initial $100, Vicki donated the extra money as a way to pay it forward.
“It’s that kind of goodness that continues to happen,” Vicki says. “It’s a simple formula: make a great product, treat people with an unsurpassed level of customer care, and they’ll keep coming back.”
A Roast to the Silver Anniversary
Memorable customer interactions such as The One Hundred Dollar Club kept Door County Coffee in business for 25 years, and Vicki’s been celebrating all of 2018. She hosted an event in June featuring Door County dignitaries, politicians and small business owners. Door County Coffee also received a commendation from Governor Scott Walker for the milestone. Throughout the year, they’ve been advertising special sales and promotions on their Facebook and newsletters.
To commemorate 25 years, Door County Coffee released four new types of coffee, all of which Vicki’s master roasters spent months perfecting before their release.
“We wouldn’t have great coffee if we didn’t have really passionate people that did their best every day,” Vicki says. “Every business is people and I think we hit the jackpot with the folks that we have on staff. They’re marvelous.”