Chicago-Bound for Mojo Coffee Magnate
Coffee addict Steve Gianoutsos’ latest venture is his biggest punt yet: Shifting his family of five to Chicago, to unleash the Mojo coffee brand on the US market.
Opening his first 140-square-metre café there in late March, and a roastery too, his long-term goal is to have more than 30 Mojo cafés scattered around Chicago.
Chicago boasts 165 Starbucks outlets, promoting a coffee drinking style reminiscent of New Zealand cafés a couple of decades ago, when the latte bowl was de rigueur.
“There’s a huge coffee culture in Chicago but a gap in the market. There’s such an adrenalin rush setting up cafes. I just love it,” Gianoutsos, 47, says.
Gianoutsos’ coffee empire began in Wellington, before spreading to Auckland and offshore to China and Japan.
After leaving Rongotai College, Gianoutsos joined the army, before working in real estate. Heading to London for a stint, he and wife Julie returned and opened their first cafe, Espresso Republic, on Wellington’s Featherston Street. That was a grind without decent coffee he could buy, and so he decided to open his own roastery, borrowing the funds.
With the city already awash with cafés, Gianoutsos’ bank manager warned him it was a terrible business idea. But the café owner taught himself to roast coffee by reading a book, pouring his first Mojo coffee on a corner site on Wakefield Street, in 2003.
Mojo now has five cafés in Japan, which operate under a licence agreement. In August 2013, the company spread to China, opening a cafe in Xian. There, Mojo’s baristas have been educating local Chinese to sip their flat whites in smaller cups.
Aware that Mojo could be typecast as a mass-market coffee chain, he is keen to keep its boutique image, and to continue to promote the brand as a family-run business. “Some of the Mojo owners have been with me for 13 years, and that’s one of the most satisfying things about what I do.”
Original article by Sarah Catherall, Stuff, February 4, 2017.