I recently sat down with Jeff Postlewait, who started the Rocket Bakery in Millwood in 1992 with his wife Julia, and since then have opened 6 additional locations including the Rocket Market on the South Hill. A little over a year ago they diversified by opening Bottles right next to the original Bakery location where they offer killer deals on a great selection of wine and beer and also have regular tastings in the evenings. They also have a large wholesale operation for baked goods.
Jeff explained that they just purchased a new facility in the Valley on Trent near Sullivan to expand and move their baking operation and administrative offices. This will allow them to open up more seating at the Millwood site and even more at the Bottles location.
It's no secret that the Rocket is a great Spokane success story. They are the perennial choice for "Best Bakery" and "Best Locally Owned Coffee House" in local publications. There aren't too many home grown Spokane brands, but "The Rocket" stands up there as one of the most recognizable and well regarded. But what intrigues me most about the Rocket is that in this down economy when coffee shops are dropping like flies around town the Rocket is expanding.
Based on my experience with Jeff and Julia their key to success seems to be a focus on nurturing relationships. I don't think Jeff does much with computers but he's one of the best social networkers I know, the face to face kind of networker that Twitter will never rival. This shows in customer loyalty and their staff. And they also obviously have a good handle on the business side of things.
I reported earlier in the week on the 4x greater economic benefit of locally owned stores as compared with nationally owned chains. It would be a great case study to compare the economic impact of the Rocket compared to Starbucks in Spokane. I'm guessing in their case it may even be more than 4x. Jeff said that they've always taken the approach of putting money back into the business instead of cashing in assets, which means they're putting the capital proceeds from the business back into the community.
Go here for the expanding list of locally owned stores to purchase from this Christmas season and let me know if you know a good one to add.