Bucks County Coffee Co. L.L.C., the Langhorne chain that helped introduce gourmet brews to the region 26 years ago, changes ownership next week under a deal that would drop the familiar green-and-white moniker from most of its 16 coffee shops.
The company is being acquired by up-and-coming Saxbys Coffee Worldwide, a small franchise operation with big plans to expand nationally after moving its headquarters last year to Philadelphia from Atlanta, said Saxbys president and chief executive officer Nick Bayer.
Saxbys hopes to challenge Starbucks Corp. nationwide with a franchise model that, Bayer said, makes stores feel more like mom-and-pop shops than like outgrowths of a corporate "behemoth."
"Coffee shops have become the bar of yesteryear," Bayer said, giving most of the credit to Seattle's Starbucks, whose stores are ubiquitous.
"But when they got to 15,000 units in the U.S., it became harder to sell each of their individual stores as the neighborhood coffee shop," he said. "The advent of Saxbys was created on that notion."
Each Saxbys - there are 35 in nine states so far, including a handful in our region - is locally owned and operated. Franchisees are granted leeway in store design. The next shop, set to open in Haverford in two weeks, is owned by a Haverford resident.
The Bucks deal, set to close Thursday, would mark the single-largest acquisition to date for Saxbys, giving it breadth from Princeton to Washington, Bayer said.
Most Bucks County Coffee locations will be renamed Saxbys in the first month, but Saxbys may leave one or two under the Bucks name. A decision has not been made, Bayer said, about whether to rename the Bucks wholesale division.
Bucks founder Rodger Owen could not be reached to comment.
Bayer, 30, a Chicago native, sold partial ownership of his fledging company to investor Joseph Grasso, of Philadelphia-based Walnut Street Capital L.L.C., in 2007.
Bayer said he got to know Grasso after signing a lease in early 2007 to place a Saxbys in a Lansdale shopping center developed by Grasso. Bayer's offices are now in Philadelphia.
Grasso, out of the country, could not be reached for comment.