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Couple Had the Beans for Success!

"Don Stafford, Rita Stafford"

In 1977, Don Stafford reached a crisis in his life. He was 46 years old and had been an advertising salesman for 20 years in his hometown of Montreal. He wanted to do something different, something for himself. He looked around for an idea.

"I sat down with my wife Rita and we discussed what we could do. We realized we both had an enormous interest in good coffee. We did some market research and discovered that Montreal had only one gourmet coffee retailer. "

Don and Rita started right then to plan their own venture: The Coffee Gourmet.

"Our first business on Greene Avenue in Westmount was an ideal location," Rita says. "We acquired a steady stream of loyal customers. After 13 years we moved to our present location on Sherbrooke Street West and continue to prosper from our regular clientele and improved walk-in trade."

The Staffords opened a second store to market their 42 varieties of coffee in the Farmer's Market in Dollard des Ormeaux. It too was an immediate success.

Total sales for the second year of business stood at $644,000. They decided to open a store in Toronto.

"That was our first and worst mistake. We are family-oriented business and we found that we just couldn't maintain that relationship at such a distance from each other."

Daughter Lynn now manages the Farmer's Market outlet and daughter Donna is a computer whiz in the accounting department.

What is the secret of their success?

"Learn from your mistakes. Pay attention to the customers you have. Give one-on-one service. We have retained at least 80 percent of our original clients. Since most of our trade is walk-in, the location is vital to someone planning a business of this type."

Would they do it again?

"Definitely. Very much so. We started out in the dark days when politics in Quebec were rather strained. Now, after 13 years, we are really looking forward to good times."

The Staffords are planning to expand their office coffee service and a direct mail catalogue. They have added other gourmet delicacies such as various kinds of caviar, cheeses and pates in addition to blending, grinding and refining the distinctive 52 kinds of coffee their customers have come to expect.

Don and Rita Stafford are two Canadian Achievers who proved that a mid-life crisis is not always a bad thing if it makes you move from a dull job to working for yourself-and "loving it."

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