We grew up in Sturgis, Michigan, a small rural town just over an hour from Lake Michigan. Summers were wonderful and full of swimming; winters were cold and full of snowmen and snow tunnels. One thing we’ve always loved about the Midwest is the variety and beauty of the seasons and the majesty of the Great Lakes.
Our father was a builder and instilled in us a desire to create and, if possible, be our own boss. Our first official entrepreneurial project was a fixer upper. After that, we each went our own ways, one to the east coast and one to the west coast via various stops and adventures. We even got married, Jared to his high school sweetheart Elizabeth and Paul to Jennifer from nearby Homer, MI.
In 1999, as we all came together for a summer vacation along the coast of Michigan, Jared laid out plans for us to return to our hometown and build houses. It seemed like a good idea to get back to our roots and families. We completed the move in mid-2000 after surviving Y2K, we bought a big tractor and began building, not knowing that in two year’s time we would sell it and start Five Lakes Coffee!
Along with our wives, in 2002 we brought freshly roasted coffee to our hometown and our desire to help our region discover the magic of freshly roasted coffee.
We remember that first year when we worked from open to close with just the two of us. It took about six months before we figured out how we could work some alternating shifts and eventually we were able to hire some additional help. Looking back we realize it was a miracle that we survived and, not only that, we did it several more times as we opened new stores.
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’ve enjoyed the support of our communities and families.
After that first year we were growing weary of running to the ‘big city’ for freshly roasted coffee, so we began investigating how to roast our own. In the beginning of 2004, we purchased a one-pound batch coffee roaster for the coffeehouse and began our love affair with roasting our own coffee.
We added a 15 kg batch coffee roaster in 2007. Then, in 2018, we moved the roasters into a newly renovated roastery at a local, re-purposed factory and added a new 35 kg batch roaster in 2020. We also added a coffee pod packaging machine in 2021 to better service our customers and coffeehouses.
We’ve seen our share of highs and lows over the years and have always tried to learn from our successes and mistakes. Several lessons future entrepreneurs can take away from our story is to be prepared to work harder than you ever imagined, keep it simple and always do the right thing.
Our families have grown over the years. Jared and Elizabeth now have eight children, Paul and Jennifer have three. Most of our children have grown up and are helping with the business in a variety of ways. Several are working full-time and even asking us when we’re going to retire so they can take over!
Owning and managing Five Lakes has been a privilege for us and our families. We love the community that has been created and are excited to continue to grow. As for when we plan to retire… not anytime soon, we’re getting ready to embark on the next stage of expansion through franchising as we assist new entrepreneurs in opening their very own Five Lakes Coffee!