Solar Roast Coffee is gone from Colorado State University-Pueblo for the 2014-2015 school year, and Starbucks is back.
After the major renovation of the library (LARC) in April 2011, food service management began looking for a local coffee vendor because of a strong pro-Pueblo mentality according to Michael Hartkop, co-owner of Solar Roast.
Chartwells conducted a blind taste test between Solar Roast and Starbucks to determine which coffee would be offered at the university.
“Solar Roast won the blind taste test with a 2-1 ratio,” said Hartkop, resulting in Solar Roast earning the contract from Chartwells.
Since students prefer Solar Roast over Starbucks according to the taste test, then why the switch?
After a change in management within Chartwells, “that new management did not have the same support for Pueblo’s local businesses, and did not see a reason to buy local when they could buy corporate,” said Hartkop.
In 2012-2013, according to the resident hall directors at CSU-Pueblo, the students expressed a desire for a Starbucks on campus.
“Chartwells listens to our customers through the You First Program and the Dining Services Advisory Committee (DSAC),” said Claudia Walters, director of campus dining since August 2012. “Starbucks’ marketing in America could be the reason for the students’ desire for Starbucks coffee,” she said.
“In order to offer a Starbucks full beverage menu, we had to move them to Café Libro as the life science building does not have the facilities to implement Starbucks’ popular Frappuccino blended drinks,” said Walters.
Hartkop and his brother David who own Solar Roast saw the move as a lack of support for local businesses and felt their services would be better appreciated elsewhere, declining the offer to have a Solar Roast cart in the life science and classroom building locations.
Walters provided a comparison in sales at Café Libro between August 2013 and August 2014 for the first four days of the fall semesters. Information indicates that sales have increased this year at Café Libro by a few hundred dollars a day.
“Starbucks does not directly contribute to the university. However, the university gets a commission on Chartwells’ sales, so stronger sales mean higher commissions,” said Walters.
Solar Roast currently runs a successful coffee shop and distribution center in the heart of downtown Pueblo. Solar Roast is growing at a fast rate, currently operating nationwide in 22 states.
“Growth and making the best cup of coffee in the land is our motto,” said David Hartkop. Although Solar Roast is not currently selling their coffee at CSU-Pueblo, they still show support by donating a portion of their revenues to the university.