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Peet’s Coffee finds ‘Peetniks’ in Washington’s upscale, educated crowd | The Washington Post

When Peet’s Coffee decided to grow its brand beyond California a couple of years ago, chief executive Dave Burwick looked eastward and liked what he saw.

Burwick, 54, knows the District. He was married here. His in-laws live here. And now, his son goes to school here at George Washington University.

So Burwick knew it was fertile ground for “Peetniks,” as the bean purveyor’s cult followers are known in their home state of California. The city had just the right mix, he thought, to make the Peet’s magic take off.

The question is whether Peet’s can be successful when Starbucks — like it does most everywhere — leads the Washington-area market by a mile.

Peet’s Coffee chief executive Dave Burwick pours himself a fresh cup. He has been pushing the California company’s expansion into the District. (Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post)

Burwick said the D.C. market is ripe for his brand, adding that he doesn’t need to take share away from Starbucks to be successful.

“We’re very careful about where we go,” said Burwick, who cut his teeth in the beverage business during a decade at PepsiCo, where one of his accomplishments was building the Mountain Dew brand (one of my personal favorites). “We want to be in the right geographies, in the right [grocery] chains, where people are willing to pay that premium and where there are people . . . who really appreciate coffee. We don’t want to be everywhere.”

The company learned its lesson on demographics early on when it aggressively added retail cafes in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania after converting them from Caribou Cafes.

“If we’d done more homework, we would have maybe passed on converting those stores and we would have focused immediately on places like D.C. and Boston and Chicago,” Burwick said.

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Peet’s Coffee finds ‘Peetniks’ in Washington’s upscale, educated crowd – The Washington Post.

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