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Longmont Local: Ziggi's grows beyond Longmont but retains local feel

The coffee company developed beyond its first shop at Fourth Avenue and Main Street over the last 17 years
Main Street Longmont

With the recent opening of Ziggi's Coffee’s 40th location and official headquarters, the family-owned Longmont coffeehouse turned multi-state company is poised for growth in its franchising efforts. 

The coffee company developed beyond its first shop at Fourth Avenue and Main Street over the last 17 years, gaining recognition with its franchises in 25 states. But Ziggi’s reflects on its small business beginnings to map its future.

The early grind of starting a business

Before Ziggi’s founders Brandon and Camrin Knudsen — who serve as CEO and COO respectively — opened the original location in 2004 at 400 Main St, the couple lived and went to college in Oregon. Camrin was working at a drive-thru coffee shop and the Knudsens decided they wanted their own business, Brandon said.

Though Brandon is a java fan, he said he loved the business model more for the customer service aspect than the product.

“I like the experience of the drive-thru and the coffee shop. I just feel like it's just kind of a great way to start your day,” Brandon said. “And having a routine, you'll go to your normal spot where they know that you like the white mocha or you like a certain burrito. It just kind of feels good to the customer, so it was the business model and not necessarily the coffee that I really fell in love with.”

The Pacific Northwest was too saturated with drive thru coffee shops, Brandon said, so the Knudsens looked to Colorado. The couple moved to Colorado in 2003, staying with Brandon’s sister in Denver while they planned to open a coffee shop.

The Knudsens, unable to afford building a business from scratch, ended up buying the Hava Java, a coffee and sandwich shop that was in Thornton. Being tight on funds, Brandon kept his second job working graveyard shifts manufacturing ice cream in Denver. 

The first six months of running their new business was a constant grind. 

He recalls waiting in the grocery store parking lot after his shift making ice cream, only purchasing enough meat for the Hava Java to get through the day. Camrin would open the store while watching their first born, who was less than a year old at the time. After helping with the morning rush, Brandon would sleep on the floor for a couple hours in the back of the restaurant with their son before working lunch. Brandon then went home to rest for a couple more hours before doing it all over again.

"That was our introduction to business, which looking back, it was kind of insane, kind of crazy. But it teaches you discipline, it teaches you how to be efficient,” Brandon said. “I think we were doing maybe $150 a day, and now we do over $100,000 a day with our company now. And so, you just really appreciate the successes when you had the failures.”

While operating the Hava Java, the Knudsens were approached by a coffee roaster who wanted to start a cafe with the couple. Brandon left his ice cream job to open the coffee house on Main Street which later became the first Ziggi’s while Camrin worked at their other shop.

The cafe opened in 2004 was under the name Gizzi’s Coffee. The Knudsens and business partner decided to separate in 2005.

Since they couldn’t use the former name of the coffee shop, the Knudsens made do with what they had. They couldn’t afford to buy a completely different sign so they rearranged the letters on the building and added one “g” to make Ziggi’s.

“We were broke and we weren't doing a whole lot of business — very very little business actually — and we were just kind of just barely getting by, so we didn't really have a lot of options on the name,” Brandon said.

Ziggi’s sees growth

The Knudsens sold Hava Java later that year and fully focused on growing Ziggi’s. In 2010,  the couple reached their goal of owning a drive thru coffee shop with the opening of the Ziggi’s at 1729 Hover St. That led to opening several other locations, and the Knudsens found themselves with six stores in six years.

Ziggi’s launched its national franchise program and inked its first deal in 2016. With the opening of the franchise location at 2016 W. Eisenhower Blvd in Loveland earlier this month, Ziggi’s now has 40 locations with 33 being franchises.

The company signed its 150th franchise agreement this year. Brandon said that the growth was slow at first but the more Ziggi’s opened new shops the more franchise deals were sold.

Since the pandemic began in 2020, Ziggi’s saw a boost in its franchise deals. Though the cafe-only locations suffered, the shops with drive thrus increased in business, Brandon said. This led to more franchise deals. Last year, Ziggi’s secured around 40 agreements, and about 70 so far this year, Brandon said.

A future in franchising

To support Ziggi’s growth in franchises, the company built a new headquarters in Mead at the corner of Third Street and Welker Avenue. Staff plans on moving into the new headquarters this week, Brandon said, but it is not open to the public yet. Previously, 18 full-time workers worked out of a wing attached to the Knudsens’ home in Mead.

The new headquarters is 10,000 square feet and three stories high and can support around 30 full time employees, Brandon said. The ground floor will be a Ziggi’s cafe and drive thru. A training facility for franchise owners. Brandon anticipates that Ziggi’s will hire at least six more employees next year to support the franchise program.

Longmont resident Dani Wanner, VP of Operations, started working with Ziggi’s as a barista 13 years ago at the Main Street location before taking on various roles as the company grew. She said she liked the family-feel of the Ziggi’s staff and hopes the company will keep that aspect as it grows its ramps up its franchise locations.

“I never would have thought when I started with these guys that we would have stores across the country and we'd be able to go to another state or somebody else would be able to go and enjoy Ziggi’s Coffee. You know, it seemed like such a local thing to Longmont,” Wanner said. “Now,  my family down in Colorado Springs can go to Ziggi’s and I've got family in Utah that can visit a Ziggi’s. So I just think that's amazing and I hope for the future that we can just continue to do that and really, just stay true to where we started and who we are.”

With more than 100 franchise stores in development, Ziggi’s future is in building out its network. Brandon hopes that through the company, franchise owners will build a rewarding business the way the Knudsens have.

“My hope is that I have a bunch of franchisees that are really successful, that want to open multiple stores. I mean, the biggest to me that we're doing a good job and we're being successful is when our single unit operators open more stores. That means they love what they're doing, we're supporting them, they've made enough money to open another store,” Brandon said. “I just want to see those guys have the same success that we've had, and that would be the ultimate goal.”