In 2002, brothers and co-founders Paul & Jared Smith brought freshly roasted coffee to their hometown with their wives Jennifer and Elizabeth when they opened their first coffee shop in Downtown Sturgis. Currently there are six Five Lakes Coffee locations (formerly Great Lakes Chocolate & Coffee).
When asked about that first year Paul and Jared just shake their heads with big smiles. “I remember that we worked from open to close with just the two of us” says Jared. “Yes, it took about six months then we figured out how we could work some alternating shifts and we were finally able to hire some additional help - it was a miracle that we survived and not only that but we did it several more times as we opened new stores!” said Paul “Of course” says Jared “ we were younger then!”
Well, you get the picture. Lots of hard work is involved in starting a new business and it was no different for us. Fortunately, we had the support of our community and families. After that first year we were growing weary of running to Kalamazoo and paying a premium for the coffee. We couldn’t even offer bags of coffee to our customers for a fair value so we began investigating how to roast our own coffee.
In the beginning of 2004 we purchased a 1 pound per batch coffee roaster for the store. And so began our love affair with roasting our own coffee.
We’ve seen our ups and downs over the years but have always tried to learn from our mistakes. A couple of lessons we’ve learned over the years for would be entrepreneurs are ‘be prepared to work harder than you ever imagined’, ‘keep it simple’ and ‘always do the right thing’. Owning and running Five Lakes has been a privilege for us and our families. We’ve always felt a great sense of accomplishment from our efforts.
In the fall of 2017 we began work on a new coffee roasting and packing facility in Sturgis. We finally completed it and moved to the new facility in April. The new facility allows us to be more efficient and meet the increased demand of our stores and online sales.