Articles From Whole Latte Love

The Battle Begins: Integrating Retail and Coffee Shops

Posted: 02/21/07
Car Dealership Cafe

If you haven’t been to a car dealership lately, you’re missing out. Missing out on everything from rock-climbing walls and video arcades to sugar-free vanilla, skinny, extra hot café lattes. Think Carnival Cruise Line meets Cadillac Man.

That’s because the trend, according to Jeff Beddow, Public Relations Director for the National Automobile Dealers Association, has been to renovate and remodel outdated facilities – adding business centers with wireless Internet, children’s play areas and most importantly, coffee shops to the showroom floor.

The trend to integrate coffee shops into retail establishments isn’t limited to just car dealerships though. Salons, spas, boutiques, even jewelry stores are following suit – moving to an open-air floor plan, adding amenities, like coffee shops, that customers are longing for.

When Patrick Pontiac, an Upstate New York auto dealership, began designing their new 60,000 square-foot facility two years ago, they took the advice of the NADA and added a state-of-the-art coffee bar, complete with plasma screen televisions and lounge chairs.

“The showroom is really centered around the coffee shop,” said Laura Wise, cafe manager at Patrick Pontiac. “It’s a huge part of who we are.”

Wise, who brews coffee and espresso-based drinks for hundreds of customers a day on a Fetco Twin Airpot Brewer and commercial super automatic espresso machine, said the owners at Patrick spared no expense on the equipment as well as the set up. And it’s paid off, because the overall response from customers is extremely positive. “All the customers seem to really enjoy the new atmosphere.”

The center of the sleek, new showroom clearly resembles your neighborhood coffee shop – someplace to read the paper, work on the computer or just relax and sip a café mocha.

You can do that at the Mirbeau Spa in Skaneateles, New York too. According to General Manager Brent Truax, having quality coffee available for customers is really an additional service. And Truax should know about service, before he moved to the Finger Lakes to manage Mirbeau, he ran the Canyon Ranch Spa.

While the coffee bar at Mirbeau isn’t full-service like Patrick Pontiac, it does provide visiting clientele the ability to make drinks they’re accustomed to. “Most of our clients during the summer are from New York City,” he said, “and we recognize the fact they don’t like to wait around for mediocre coffee.” Truax said the commercial super automatic espresso machines were added last year, giving spa-goers the ability and individual freedom to make espresso-based drinks at will.


International Spa and Fitness Association President Lynne Walker McNees said one in four adults have now been to a spa and know what they want from a quality spa experience. In today’s fast-paced environment, where the instant gratification mindset is the norm, consumers are demanding more and retailers are listening.

David Cornell, owner of Cornell’s Jewelers in Rochester, New York said part of providing an exceptional experience to customers is making them feel like pampered guests.

“We try to make our customers feel comfortable,” Cornell said. “Part of that is always offering them something to drink, whether it’s coffee or tea, it’s all part of the service.”

And service, as Will Trafton, General Manager at the Dorschel Automotive Group, will say, is what it’s all about. “There’s a certain comfort factor that people have grown accustomed to.”

Incidentally, the Dorschel Automotive group is planning a major overhaul of their customer service center – adding an upscale lounge and full-service coffee shop by the end of summer. And while Trafton didn’t say the renovations were spurred by Patrick Pontiac’s new facility, he did emphasize that dealerships nowadays are evolving.

“People want a comfortable atmosphere. Something they’re used to, something they’re familiar with,” Trafton said.

So retailers, listen up. If your customers are spending some serious cash on a weekend getaway, diamond tennis bracelet or new car, they’re going to want some pampering. Be prepared to indulge your customers, make the buying experience a little better and try integrating any of our commercial machines into your shop. And if you’re out there shopping, enjoy the new trend in coffee – who knows what you’ll end up buying!