At a Glance
Construction department employees
Average project duration
The warm walls and rustic wood trim that are synonymous with the cozy cabin atmosphere of Caribou Coffee Company may be in for a slight revision over the next few years. Eighteen of the company’s new or remodeled coffeehouses have introduced a new design, and the difference is immediately apparent upon sight: “Each store is designed with the local community in mind, so pieces differ from store to store,” senior construction manager Jerry Roper says. “It’s an idea we call ‘The community place I love.’” With hundreds of traditional stores already built, Caribou could have a long road ahead of itself, depending on how far it chooses to expand its remodel. But, at the same time, such a project would also help expand and solidify the cross-country community of contractors the company has already built.
Since its founding in 1992, Caribou has become one of the country’s leading coffeehouse retailers. It has more than 500 stores, including 174 franchised locations, in 21 states, the District of Columbia, and nine international markets. The majority of Roper’s work for the company is new construction, but he and others are also researching the expansion of the remodeling campaign to determine what it would involve and how many stores might be affected.
Regardless of their aesthetic, with so many locations across the country, Roper says it can be hard to manage the construction process. He has to procure permits; seek bids from contractors; order equipment, furniture, and fixtures; and visit construction sites. Currently, he only has one in-house employee to help him. “It’s a challenge,” he says. “We don’t have the ability to visit every store we’re constructing or remodeling every week. Our normal construction time is eight weeks, and we usually visit the construction site three times over the course of the project.”
To keep things under control, Roper, who has been in the construction industry for 28 years and at Caribou for almost two years, relies on local contractors to keep the communication lines open with frequent updates and photographs of work in progress. Contractors are usually reliable because they’ve been vetted by Caribou’s specific qualification process. “When we go into a new market, we get recommendations from architects and real estate brokers with whom we work, and I’ll sometimes reach out to former employers who have a local presence,” Roper says. “Candidates then submit a significant amount of information, from financial statements to references. We want to know they have other clients in the industry.”
The contractors Caribou uses are as diverse as the stores themselves. In Minneapolis, where the company is based, Roper prefers Hunnerburg Construction Company and Greiner Construction. In Chicago, where the company recently built seven stores with the new design, Roper likes Rosewood Construction Group; Summit Design + Build, LLC; and Midwest Construction Partners.
Whatever region it’s working in, though, Caribou is proud of and thankful for those it works with. “It can be challenging to work around the country,” Roper says, “but quality contractors … have really helped keep the process efficient.”
Meet Jerry Roper
Where did you go to school?
In high school I took classes in architectural drafting, where I learned to design things, and in building trades, where I learned how to build a house and a garage. But I studied construction management at North Dakota State University. I was looking to go into an architecture-related field, but construction has always been in my blood.
What was your first construction job?
I worked for KBW Associates, a general contractor in Fargo, North Dakota, as a draftsman, and I gradually worked my way into estimating. After three years I moved to Minneapolis and worked for New Creations Industries as a job superintendent, then worked my way into drafting and estimating. In 1990 I came across a newspaper ad for McDonald’s, which led me to the restaurant industry.
How did you wind up working for Caribou Coffee?
I worked for McDonald’s until September 2009, then went to Pearson Education for a year and a half before joining Caribou in 2011. It’s a small company with an entrepreneurial spirit and a family feel. I have the ability to influence more things and work more closely with a variety of other departments than I did at McDonald’s. I just love the environment. I wake up every day and love to go to work.
What personal goals do you have in your current role?
I aspire to shape the department, changing the way we do business relating to construction. Personally, I’d like to work my way up to a director position one day. ABQ