ECS Coffee takes the single-serve concept to the people through retail outlets
Lisa Grace Marr
The Hamilton Spectator
ECS Coffee is percolating, but it’s not boiling over.
Neil Madden and his wife and partner Sinead have had a year of heady growth, opening three retail stores in Ancaster and Kitchener, and a new location in Burlington.
At the same time, they have been developing an online store and a sophisticated marketing strategy that relies heavily on social media for customer feedback.
The store sells single-serve coffees, teas and accessories for the Tassimo, Keurig and other coffee makers.
ECS started as a part-time vending machine venture in 1997, then transformed into a single-serve coffee service, eventually opening a retail location in Burlington.
In 2009, it earned Madden, then 37, the Burlington Chamber of Commerce Youth Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
“We’ve grown up quite a bit,” said Madden. “I didn’t know how we were going to evolve. The concept was new with single-serve coffee in the market. Now it’s been copied all over the world: Italy, South America, United States. We have people from all over wander into our stores to see what they’re like.”
The result is a luxuriously decorated boutique where customers can walk up and down the aisles, picking up any single-serve coffee tab they’d like. If they’re not sure about the flavour, no problem. They can just pop over to the complimentary coffee bar at the back of the store, pop the tab in for a cuppa and enlist the help of the barista on hand.
“It’s like going to a candy store, but for adults,” laughed Madden.
He’s also managed to secure a couple of exclusive deals, including one with Blue Mountain Coffee — the Jamaican-owned company run by the late Bob Marley’s family.
He has plans to open more locations in Ontario this year but says the growth has to be managed to ensure staff are properly trained.
“That’s the big focus this year: human resources,” he said. “People think we’re this big corporate chain because of our look and feel. It took six months to get together the systems and processes we’ve developed. We’re playing with the big boys now. Now it’s up to the (staff).”
Despite requests and the lure of a giant market in the United States and other possible business partnerships, Madden is remaining steadfast in developing the ECS brand before making any big moves.
“We get asked 10 times a day about franchising but there are a few things we still need to perfect,” he said. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable attaching a value to our company until I feel it is perfect.”
Check them out at www.ecscoffee.com.