Ed Cotton: When Craft Meets Wall Street

BSSP’s head of strategy shares his thoughts on the repercussions felt when Stumptown recently sold its stake to a private equity firm.

Stumptown, Portland’s beloved coffee maker recently sold a stake in the business to a private equity company- TSG and this move, as predicted attracted a lot of negative press.

It’s kind of like an early 90s indy band selling out to the major label.

One of the most vocal was Todd Carmichael who wrote a pretty scathing piece in this Esquire column.

Chances are, it will be another in a long history of promising roasters sold and promptly suffocated by corporate America, like Torrefazione Italia, Seattle’s Best, and Green Mountain, to name just a few. Instead we must brace for a watering-down of what was, by way of explosive expansion, in which Lady Gaga coffee ends up on Spaghetti Factory menus and ultimately, tragically, the whole thing terminates in some clever bundling transaction triggering a much-needed corporate tax write-off.

What advice can I give to anyone who’s mourning this loss? Vote with your dollar and avoid Wall Street-owned roasters. It is through sales, or lack of them, that these people might learn that trying to buy coolness is a finger-burning strategy. Hopefully then they will leave our roasters alone. In the process, they may even realize that some consumers do care that there is a real, hardworking craftsman behind the things they eat and drink. Those consumers are not statistics and marketing strategy targets. They are lovers of true craft.

Todd’s perspective seems to suggest that these Wall Street firms are only too happy to buy up cool and then use their financial and marketing wizardry to grind them into the ground, destroy the very essence of their being- leaving them a shattered shell of their former selves.

(Continue reading here).

Ed Cotton is the Director of Strategy at BSSP, and is curious about all things relating to brands, marketing and culture. Read more at influx insights.

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