(Photo by Don Kadair)
Company: Cafeciteaux Coffee Roasters
What they do: Specialty coffee
Address: 14141 Airline Highway, building 4, suite U
Next goals: Expand online sales and caffeinate the world
At the end of a long week, Stevie Guillory and Christopher Peneguy can usually be found in their warehouse, garage door rolled open, some Jimmy Buffett music playing and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee filling the 1,500 square-foot-space on Airline Highway. After work and dinner with their families, they meet here to roast batches of their handpicked coffee beans and fill orders. Peneguy works for a family business by day and was once a home beer-brewing enthusiast. Guillory spends his days as a physician’s assistant and also finds fulfillment in missionary work in South Africa. It was there Guillory developed a sophisticated coffee palate and learned about the complexity of coffee beans. Peneguy had thought of opening up a brewery but was discouraged by government regulations. As a result, the friends formed a business partnership, combining their passions to create a specialty coffee-roasting venture.
The business started small, after friends and family members who were seeking a unique holiday gift began offering to pay Guillory and Peneguy for their home-roasted coffee. “It was a long weekend,” Peneguy recalls of the early days when he and Guillory would roast beans at home for 20 hours straight. “After that we started talking about really making it a business and invested in a big roaster,” Guillory says. The two will celebrate Cafeciteaux Coffee Roasters’ second year in business in June. Both still enjoy their day jobs and use the business as a way to unwind. How do they manage the demands of both their day jobs and a budding business venture? Their product helps fuel them. “We learned that there is such a thing as an excessive amount of coffee,” Peneguy says, recalling many sleepless nights after taste testing their product. As business continues to expand organically, both Guillory and Peneguy are planning for growth and evaluating their future roles in the business.
Guillory and Peneguy’s business model is rooted in local support. Their products are carried at grocers such as Alexander’s Highland Market and Calandro’s. Through taste tests at the grocery stores, and with support from culinary personalities like Jay Ducote, they have been able get their brand in front of new audiences, expanding both their online and wholesale operations. But along with the growth comes some tough questions and decisions. The business partners frequently discuss whether one of them will take over at Cafeciteaux full time. “Being an entrepreneur and a businessman who can control some of his hours—that is where I want to be,” Guillory says, adding he’s not ready to give up the fulfillment he finds in his medical profession. As they continue to plan for the future of their company, Guillory says it’s presently a great time to be a small business owner in Baton Rouge. “People are really rallying around local businesses,” he says.
Despite the dominance of large local coffee companies in the area, Guillory and Peneguy don’t view what they call “commodity coffees” as direct competitors. That’s because Cafeciteaux is exclusively focused on producing specialty coffee from hand-grown beans via a roasting process with a personal touch. So far, the company’s biggest challenge has been educating consumers about what makes their coffee unique. “We have a drought when it comes to coffee culture,” Peneguy says, noting some local cafés that feature specialty roasters are the exception. However, many high-end restaurants in New Orleans have begun to request Cafeciteaux’s products. “These young chefs that are coming up, they don’t want to do what everybody else is doing,” Peneguy says. “They want local, high quality products, so they are seeking us out.” While Guillory and Peneguy plan to open their own café in a few years, for now they plan to continue growing their business at a steady, but manageable, pace.