Dec 13, 2023 - Business

Scoop: Local coffee roaster Magnolia Coffee will expand nationwide with help of a Charlotte entrepreneur

Magnolia Coffee

Magnolia Coffee in People's Market in Elizabeth. Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

You might have spotted Magnolia Coffee in places like The People’s Market, Whole Foods and other independent cafes around town. The local micro coffee roaster has been around for 13 years, but its founder, Jay Gestwicki, now hopes to expand the brand nationwide.

Why it matters: Magnolia Coffee now has the backing of local entrepreneur Mac Lackey, a Charlotte native with over 25 years of starting, scaling and selling companies. He’s a mentor and an angel investor in over 50 companies. He recently bought a Spanish soccer team

  • Plus, Gestwicki and Lackey are both Charlotte natives. It’s cool to see local entrepreneurs supporting each other.

The big picture: Micro coffee roasters have become about as popular as microbreweries, according to Gestwicki. He says it’s become a very competitive industry.

  • “When I started Magnolia in 2010, there were two other roasters in Charlotte, and right around 2020 I counted over 40 micro-roasters in the Charlotte metro area,” Gestwicki said.
Magnolia Coffee is harvested in Costa Rica, Colombia Honduras and Guatemala, among other locations. Photo courtesy of Jay Gestwicki (far left).

Flashback: Gestwicki helped bring Caribou Coffee to Charlotte — before Starbucks blew up. He was also a minority partner of Dilworth Coffee at one point. Using the skills he learned at both companies, he founded the award-winning Magnolia Coffee brand in 2010.

  • “The first year I was on my own, that’s how small it was,” Gestwicki said.
  • With the help of head roaster Ben Alleman, who joined him in 2011, Magnolia has gained national recognition from Coffee Review, the industry’s leading independent evaluator of quality coffee, according to Gestwicki.
  • Magnolia ranked in the top 20 coffees of the year for 2022 and 2023 by Coffee Review.
Magnolia Coffee’s Head Roaster Ben Alleman. Photo: Courtesy of Jay Gestwicki

What they’re saying: “[I] have loved and enjoyed Magnolia’s award-winning coffees for years, but realized a brand with this quality had so much potential when it is discovered by a larger audience.,” Lackey said when asked why he pursued the partnership.

What’s next: With the help of Lackey, Gestwicki plans to expand Magnolia’s e-commerce business. He also hopes to offer the brand at more stores, restaurants and coffee shops in Charlotte and beyond.

Go deeper: In 2016, Lackey wrote an op-ed for Charlotte Agenda before it was Axios Charlotte titled “Charlotte start-ups: Don’t take one penny from an investor; do this instead.

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