If you used coffee and tea jargon to describe the culture and workforce at S&D Coffee & Tea, it would be bold and bright, with a community-centric center and full-bodied flavor. In other words, the country’s largest custom coffee roaster prides itself on being a gracious neighbor and surrounding itself with the very best employees.
“We moved to our current location in the early ‘70s, but S&D has called Concord home since 1929,” said John Buckner, vice president of marketing. “It’s been a long ride and we’re proud to be coming up on 90 years in the community.”
With 750 employees in Cabarrus County, S&D ranked #12 on the NC100 list of Private Companies for 2015 – a very good year for the company, Buckner said. That means adding to the S&D family and diverse workforce – not only specialized talent, but also dedicated service-oriented employees. “We have aggressive growth plans and we’re going to pursue the talent we need to drive our business,” he said.
Community partnerships play a key role the quality of S&D’s workforce. “Rowan-Cabarrus Community College provides the setting for supervisory training for our managers and they also offer programs that teach specific skills we need,” Buckner said. “We find that many of our employees who come from RCCC are well prepared to be very productive and contribute right away when they come on board at S&D.”
Buckner noted the company’s ability to retain quality employees is a bit unique in the modern career climate where people move frequently from employer to employer. “We’ve benefited from having people who really understand our market, products and operation,” he said. “We’ve been able to retain that knowledge over longer periods of time, which pays off big-time for our customers.”
That specialized knowledge took center stage recently when three team members were certified as Arabica Q Graders, an elite group of tasters throughout the coffee community. “It was an extraordinarily rigorous examination process that took many hours of study,” Buckner said. “There are fewer than 300 people with this certification, so for us to have three of them makes us very proud.”
Being part of a winning team, making individuals feel important and being good stewards of the community is a culture that is demonstrated throughout S&D. “We have a special place in our hearts for our people, their wellbeing and that of their family, and we appreciate being an active part of the community where we live and work,” Buckner said.
In addition to supporting the United Way of Central Carolinas, Habitat for Humanity of Cabarrus County and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s annual walk, S&D recently made a $150,000 donation to the Jeff Gordon’s Children’s Hospital. “Thirty-three percent of our local employees have kids under the age of 18, so working with the children’s hospital couldn’t be more fitting,” Buckner said.
S&D also has a mutually beneficial relationship with Johnson and Wales University, where executives and team members provide student tours, offer insight on curricula and serve as guest lecturers. The company is also hosting its sixth annual culinary challenge, which Buckner called the “best and biggest recipe competition on campus.”
Using S&D’s coffee and tea extracts, the young chefs are cooking up tasty creations – like coffee barbecue sauce and black tea glaze – with a Carolina-centric flair. Added Buckner, “When these talented young chefs get snatched up by restaurants and food service operators throughout the Carolinas and southeast, we hope they’ll remember S&D.”