MONUMENT — Carl Nolt made his way in the coffee business, starting at age 20 in Washington state at The Wet Whisker, which later grew into Seattle’s Best Coffee.
“It’s been a great business. I love it,” said Nolt, now 53 and owner of Serranos Coffee Co.
On any given day and at any time of day, a consumer will find the restaurant full of people. In the mornings, a group of men comically known as Monument’s Think Tank sip their coffees and lattes, while moms gather after dropping their kids off at school.
When he started in the coffee business, “I started in retail, went to wholesale then to roasting plant manager then operations manager for the whole company,” Nolt said. Early on, “you couldn’t buy a cup of coffee in a store. Starting about 1981, you could start buying coffee in our stores.
“It went from a bean store to a cup store then food grew from there.”
He left the Northwest to investigate a coffee company in Fort Collins that was for sale.
“Fort Collins didn’t fit for me … I fell in love with the Tri-Lakes area,” and after researching the business of coffee in El Paso County, “we settled in this area because we loved it,” he said.
He opened the original Serranos in 1995 in Monument’s Safeway Center, originally roasting the beans there.
“The wholesale business grew to the point we couldn’t survive with that roaster,” so they purchased a larger roaster and located it off-site.
Starbucks opened inside Safeway on a Friday, and the following Monday, it opened a second store across the street from Serranos. Nolt closed the Safeway Center store in January 2011, and the next month opened at the restaurant’s current location at 625 Colorado Highway 105, also offering a wide selection of homemade foods and soups.
“You can have your meetings, and you don’t have to run off for lunch anymore,” Nolt said.
Business has “grown very nicely. … We were doubling our business over the previous years,” Nolt said. Since 2011, he reports double-digit percentage increases in both wholesale and retail sales. His focus for 2014 is to aggressively market wholesale.
Nolt now sells wholesale to Marigold Café and Bakery and the Cliff House at Pikes Peak and in other areas around Colorado as well as coffee houses that do not roast their own beans.
“Yes, I want to grow, but I want to maintain the quality,” Nolt said.
After being in business 16 years, he came up with a mission statement. He said he was in the coffee shop when it occurred to him:
“The smiles on both sides of the counter look real nice … Create smiles on both sides of the counter. It’s about having fun, enjoying yourself, smiling and doing something good.”