Small, Black-Owned Business Finds Niche at Wegmans
01/13/2023 · Newsroom Highlight
Golden Cup Coffee got its start as a wholesale coffee supplier and roastery with a small café in Buffalo, New York. Co-owner Larry Stitts said they were finding a lot of success in the wholesale business and wanted to find new ways to expand their customer base. The best way to do that was to sell their coffee in retail stores, but he had no idea where to begin. That is until one of his wholesale clients encouraged him to join the Buffalo Purchasing Initiative.
The mission of the Buffalo Purchasing Initiative (BPI) is to build the capacity of large employers, like Wegmans, to increase their spending with small, local, black-owned businesses. BPI connects the small businesses with large companies for loans, grants, and mentorship.
Participating in the BPI supports Wegmans’ commitment to developing partnerships, providing products, and hiring employees that are inclusive and reflective of the communities we serve. In addition, we pride ourselves in providing local and near-our–stores products at all our locations. This means partnering with and supporting local businesses who can meet a need that may otherwise be unfulfilled.
“It has to be the right niche, it can’t be something we already have plenty of other local options for,” said Brent Holst, merchandising manager at the Amherst Street store, part of our Buffalo, New York, Division. “One thing we didn’t have any options for was local coffee. That’s where the Buffalo Purchasing Initiative and Golden Cup Coffee came in.”
In the spring of 2020, through the BPI, Wegmans and Golden Cup Coffee formed a partnership to help Stitts pursue his business’ retail arm. The first step for our team was to help Stitts create UPC and ingredient labels for his retail bags, as well as secure the proper insurance needed to begin selling his beans in a retail setting. After some trial and error with the UPC bar code development, Golden Cup was ready for the retail market in October of 2020.
It began at the Amherst Street store, on a display rack in the coffee aisle. To say the coffee was a hit is an understatement. Four months later, the sale of Golden Cup Coffee expanded to two more of our Buffalo stores. One month after that, in March of 2021, display racks of Golden Cup Coffee lined the coffee aisle at all 10 Buffalo-area stores. By the end of 2021, it was moved off the racks and onto the shelves – signaling that Golden Cup Coffee was a permanent item in all Buffalo stores.
“Being a small business and not exposed to the retail market, a larger company can make or break you,” said Stitts. “It’s the people in the industry that make you better at what you do, and Wegmans has been that for us. It’s been a wonderful experience. With the addition of retail sales at Wegmans and in our café, we were able to upgrade our equipment, put things into place that Wegmans and future retailers required, and even hire an additional employee to help meet the increased demand.”
Stitts is now looking to expand into additional Wegmans locations throughout New York State, as well as with other retailers.
Dozens of small, local, black-owned businesses participate in the Buffalo Purchasing Initiative. BPI is just one of the many avenues Wegmans uses to mentor suppliers, build relationships, and support local businesses near our stores.