Mark Swanson - Coffee Talk


Some businesses just leave you with a smile—and when they do, it’s often because they put their customers first. And while focusing on customer relationships is often just an arbitrary management goal, it’s a rare organization in which every employee buys into the idea, thus establishing a new course for the corporate culture.

Few people know this as well as Mark Swanson, President of Cup o’ Joe coffeehouses, which also includes MoJoe Lounge and Stauf’s in Grandview, whose charmingly self-deprecating nature challenges the traditional archetype of what upper management should be. As he puts it, “I wanted to run an organization that was about community. We spend a lot of time talking internally to our employees and our customers, instead of focusing on what’s going on across the street,” he says. Because of this, the staff makes patrons comfortable enough to share opinions on what they like and don’t like.

Each business in the Cup o’ Joe family is a little bit different than the next. For instance, Stauf’s is what you might call “coffee central” for hardcore fans. They carry more varietals than your average coffeehouse, roast beans on-site each week and have a huge selection of teas. Cup o’ Joe locations are more in-line with typical city-style coffeehouses, while MoJoe Lounge is an extension of that concept. “We wanted to create a relaxed environment that wasn’t too loud, where you could hear each other speak, with great cocktails and a great beer selection,” he says. As a bonus, all MoJoe Lounge locations now are equipped with kitchen facilities, which bolster their menus with soups, salads, sandwiches, pizzas, and large and small plate entrees.

Considering his industry, you might be interested in Swanson’s take on that certain coffee conglomerate with the mermaid logo. “Starbucks educated an entire market, and every independent business should respect what they did in teaching the public about espresso based drinks,” says Swanson. “However, our job is to make better coffee, have better locations and better people. Being a local company and being run by people from the community is a huge asset for us.”