Joe Lloyd had to be convinced to include his name in what is now one of Durango’s most ubiquitous retail storefronts. Chances are, if you need a caffeine boost to jump-start your morning batteries, your routine includes a stop at Durango Joes.
“I didn’t want to use my name. I had to be talked into it,” Lloyd said in an interview at the Town Plaza Durango Joes, one of five locations in Durango. “It kind of made sense, you know – cup of joe. It’s turned out to be a great way to meet people. People come in all the time asking: ‘Is there a real Joe?’”
Lloyd did not grow up in Durango, but he estimates he has 40 to 50 cousins living in the Durango area and a similar number in northwest New Mexico.
His grandfather, Dr. Leo Lloyd, was a longtime Durango physician and the last doctor in town to make house calls, he said.
His brother, also named Leo Lloyd, is a captain with the Durango Fire Protection District, who makes a habit of running an 18-mile loop in the Grand Canyon each spring.
Joe grew up in Montana but visited Durango frequently, and just before coming to Durango, he was in the coffee-crazy Northwest U.S. in Grants Pass, Oregon.
He was attracted to Durango because of his knowledge of the area and what appeared to the eyes of a Northwesterner an underserved coffee market.
The foundation of it all, he said, is the enjoyment he gets from the ambiance and feel of what a good coffeehouse provides.
“You can come in and debate policy, religion or whatever else and walk away friends,” he said. “It’s a place for people who like to be together. I love it.”
The business end of the coffee business is what drove Lloyd to expand from his original coffeehouse, which opened in 2004 on College Drive, to four other locations in Durango, four in Farmington and one in Aztec. In addition, he recently signed a contract to provide coffee at Purgatory Resort and he plans to open another store in Farmington in May.
“Coffee is a volume business,” he said. “You have to sell a lot of it to make it.”
The one advantage coffeehouse owners have is the morning cup of joe is a bit addictive and is viewed by many “as a less-expensive guilty pleasure.”
As part of the more-is-better approach to build a sustainable business, Lloyd said he now plans to expand to Albuquerque sometime in 2019, and he said he’ll probably open more than one shop.
“We’re definitely looking at multiple locations,” he said. “If you put in one, you might as well put in another one at the opposite end of town.”
Like Durango, Albuquerque, he said, is an underserved coffee market. He said in the Northwest, a population the size of Albuquerque would have five times the number of coffee shops that are now located there.
Tim Walsworth, executive director of Business Improvement District, said having “Durango” in the signs of a coffeehouse in Albuquerque can only help generate tourism.
“Albuquerque is a big market for us. They love to come to Durango,” he said. “Putting ‘Durango’ in signs all over Albuquerque, sure that’s going to help. It keeps us fresh in people’s minds.”
Food has become an increasingly important part of the puzzle for Durango Joes, which employs about 150 people in its current 10 outlets. When the first coffeehouse opened, food sales totaled 4 percent of sales; now it’s at 21 percent, Lloyd said.
His wife, LeAnna, runs the food production at Durango Joes, and Lloyd said he plans to expand the business’ bakery operation, run out of the Escalante Drive shop near Walmart, from about 600 square feet to 2,000 square feet. The bakery is also where all the salads and sandwiches are made.
Beyond the growing importance of food, Lloyd said he expects changes in the coffee business to continue to put pressure on prices.
“We don’t raise prices on a whim. We dissect our business carefully. It’s not done just to make another buck but to ensure we stay afloat and stay healthy,” he said.
The biggest force out there driving up coffee prices, he said, is the growing popularity of coffee in India and China, two countries that had been tea-centric but are now moving toward coffee.
In Durango, where water rates have gone up, he said his water bill doubled in 2017.
In the end, Lloyd said while his name did end up on the signs above his coffeehouses, it’s his employees who are the most important variable that keeps his business thriving.
“These guys who work for us are some of the best people in town,” he said. “Running this company is such a team effort. I have my name on the signs, but the credit for Joes goes to these guys.”