Biggby Coffee president looks to Milford

Category: Uncategorized

Written by
Aileen Wingblad
Staff Writer


With its recent designation by CNBC as the fastest growing coffee chain in the United States, there’s a good chance you know where to find a Biggby Coffee store.


But so far, it’s not Milford.


Company president Michael McFall is determined to change that. The 1989 Milford High School graduate, whose father was a Milford business owner for many years, said he’s had his sights set on bringing a Biggby to his hometown for about a decade. Trouble is, when it comes to finding the right place at the right price, he’s stumped — yet not discouraged.


“It seems ridiculous to me that there’s no Biggby store in Milford. We have 127 stores, but none in my hometown? My hometown is a great market place, and there are multiple people interested,” McFall said.


A financial deterrent to establishing a store in the village, McFall explained, are tap fees, which are required by the Village of Milford and other communities for water and sewer service. The one-time fees are imposed on homes and businesses and can be adjusted for properties’ subsequent owners based on usage guidelines established by Oakland County. McFall said one potential Milford Biggby franchisee decided to locate his store elsewhere because of the fees, but that added cost isn’t necessarily the ultimate deal-breaker. What has created the roadblock is a combination of factors that includes identifying the ideal building and location at a price that’s feasible.


“For the past decade, I have been working to find the perfect piece of property in Milford because bringing Biggby home would mean the world to me. I have had the store operators ready to go on multiple occasions but have yet to find the right piece of property, which is very frustrating.


“I’m just hoping somebody reads this (story) and says ‘I have a property that will work.’ That’s essentially what I am looking for,” he said.


McFall’s success with East Lansing-based Biggby Coffee — formerly Beaner’s Coffee — began in 1995 when co-founder Mary Roszel hired him as a minimum wage barista. After three years of steaming milk, pulling shots of espresso and perfecting lattes for customers, McFall hatched a plan with Bob Fish, the other Biggby co-founder, and formed Global Orange Development to franchise Biggby stores. “I sensed this opportunity in the industry, an enormous opportunity,” he said.


And it has yet to disappoint, he added. Calling Biggby “recession proof,” McFall claims an annual growth in the business tops 20 percent. Lattes and other specialty coffee drinks have gone mainstream in the past five years or so — and no longer are considered “an upper-middle class yuppie drink.”


“It’s gotten the ‘Middle America’ endorsement,” McFall said, attributing Biggby’s appeal to the stores’ casual atmosphere — that everyone from kids through seniors consider comfortable — and its “delicious” products.


“Biggby coffees are just so good,” he said, grinning.


“And they are a treat that you can indulge in on a regular basis. We can make it as healthy as you like, if you want we can use just skim milk, water, espresso — no fat — and it tastes fantastic,” McFall said. “Everybody loves coffee. All we are doing is taking a product everybody drinks and making it better.”


Of course, Biggby sells more than coffee. Along with the large variety of lattes enhanced with fruit, nuts and other ingredients, menu items include tea and tea lattes, specialty cookies, yogurt parfaits, bagel sandwiches, fruit cups and more. Stores subscribe to an efficient business plan that keeps operations simple, McFall said, adding “We focus on what we do, and do it well.”


McFall, who holds an economics degree from Kalamazoo College, said the business bug bit him early on: he attributes his interest and the start of his success to his favorite teacher at Milford High School, Ron Marinucci.


“I went on to earn a bachelor of science degree in economics from Kalamazoo College,” McFall said, “but I never had a single professor as engaging, as motivating and as interesting as Mr. Marinucci. He taught me about stock portfolios, managing stocks, starting a business. As a high school senior, to be excited to go to class, that was pretty cool.”


McFall now makes his home in East Lansing, near Biggby Coffee’s headquarters. But with several family members living in and around Milford, he’s a frequent visitor to the area. He loves the town, he said, but there’s just one thing missing.


“Something about Milford not having a Biggby doesn’t seem right to me,” McFall said. “I’d just really like to see a Biggby here. I haven’t been able to find the spot, but I know it’s out there.”


Contact McFall at (517) 388-1444.


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