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Bringing BIGGBY® From Kalamazoo to Georgia: A Franchising Tale of Love, Coffee and Community

The Tripps have been loyal BIGGBY® fans since the 90s in their Michigan hometown. Now the couple’s dreams are coming true as franchisees with the coffee shop brand in Athens, Georgia.

By Erica InmanStaff Writer
8:08AM 04/20/24

Tarin and Luke Tripp have been big fans of BIGGBY® COFFEE for decades. The married couple grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where they visited the coffee shop often. When they moved to Georgia, it became the number one thing they missed from home. 

For the Tripps, BIGGBY® offered a warm and welcoming sense of community that they have never experienced elsewhere. For years, the pair discussed how badly they wished the coffee shop had a location nearby, when finally they came across the opportunity to franchise with the brand in Athens, Georgia. 

The offer was too good to refuse because Tarin and Luke Tripp's journey with BIGGBY® is more than just a love for great coffee and a welcoming environment; it’s a place that reminds them of home and of their own journey together. 

The pair first met in the fifth grade, when Tarin sang a Paula Abdul song in the talent show and Luke, captivated by her performance, knew he just had to meet this girl. The following year, Luke cleverly arranged for Tarin to be his square dance partner in gym class. 

“He madly pursued me after that with letters over the summer, birthday gifts and by helping me pass math class,” said Tarin.

The couple has just celebrated an anniversary of 25 years together and 15 years married. All the while, the Tripps have visited many BIGGBY® locations and it remains a special place for them. Now, they hope it can become a special, warm and welcoming place for others in their community too. 

1851 Franchise spoke with the Tripps about their journey into franchising and their plans for the future.


1851 Franchise: Frame your personal story for us. What did you do before franchising, and how did you decide franchising made sense for you?

Tarin: We are both still working at our normal jobs. I worked for 20 years in the disability field. I currently work for Therap Services; it's a software company that provides electronic health records mainly for providers who provide services to adults with developmental disabilities.

Luke: I have been in hospitality for 28 years or so. I currently work for the University of Georgia as the manager for the hotel on campus.

Tarin: We love BIGGBY®. We were both born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and it has always been a place we loved. 

After we moved to Georgia, anytime we went back home, BIGGBY® was the first stop we made. It was one of the biggest things we missed about home. We always talked about how we wished there was one near us. 

Last November a very dear friend of ours, the best man in our wedding, passed away unexpectedly and we went home for his funeral. Before the funeral, we went to BIGGBY® and we were sitting there drinking coffee talking about how we wished we had a BIGGBY® back in Georgia. A couple days later, the creepy Facebook algorithm must have been listening; we saw an ad that said BIGGBY® is trying to open up franchises in Georgia. We immediately decided to go for it!

1851: What was your perception of franchising prior to becoming a franchisee, and what do you want people to know about franchising now that you are in it?

Tarin: I didn’t really have a perception of franchising beforehand. One of the things that I love about BIGGBY® is that the brand is so community focused. I don’t always associate chain restaurants with a local owner from the community. Owning a business in my community, as a real local person, made me realize that a lot of these places are locally owned.

Luke: I used to think franchises weren’t as accessible as they actually are. I thought you needed a certain financial status that was out of reach or a background in business ownership. However, that’s not true. 

1851: What made you pick this brand? What excites you most about this company?

Tarin: BIGGBY® has delicious coffee and there is nothing pretentious about it. It feels accessible. The baristas are nice and the environment is so welcoming. It has just been a place that we go to celebrate. It feels like we are home.

Luke: The sense of community the brand creates has a sense of ease, and it’s comforting. The business model is made to foster community. When we first started this whole process, we tried to figure out what our shortcomings would be. I don't know how to make a latte. That's it. I know how to create a community. I know how to provide great service and how to run a business. Franchising provides an avenue for us to do all of that.

1851: What do you hope to achieve with your business? What are your plans for growth? 

Luke: The goal is to have a place where people can easily meet and get the coffee they want. We want to live a lifestyle as a family of four based around this business. We anticipate having more than one and are aiming for two or three. That’s a driver for us, but our goal is to bring good coffee and a sense of community to Athens. 

Tarin: We also want to be our own bosses. We want to create the work environment that we crave. We have both worked in toxic work environments previously. I love my current job and that’s helped me realize that I want to create a great work environment. I want to create a place where I want to work. 

1851: What is the one thing about your story you want us to know?

Tarin: I am approaching this experience holistically. We didn’t sign a contract until Mercury went out of retrograde. I am into energy work. I live by the natural rhythms and both of us are approaching this energetically with what feels good. We are being led by our inner compass. When we open our store, they can count on that energy of love and the universe being behind us. 

As for our story, Luke first saw me in the fifth grade. I was singing Paula Abdul in a talent show and he decided he wanted to know me. He arranged for us to be square dancing partners in sixth grade gym.

Luke: Arranged is an understatement. 

Tarin: We dated for a while in sixth grade, but then I dumped him. He madly pursued me after that with letters over the summer, birthday gifts and by helping me pass math class. We were very good friends and he asked me out again in the ninth grade. I said yes, and we've been together ever since. We actually just celebrated our 25th anniversary — married 15 years and 25 years together.

1851: What advice do you have for other people thinking about becoming a franchise owner?

Tarin: Do it. It’s scary, but just do it scared.

Luke: Follow your intuition. It’s not as contentious or inaccessible as you may think. 

About The BIGGBY® COFFEE Franchise

BIGGBY® COFFEE, based in East Lansing, Mich., was started with a single store on March 15, 1995. One year later, and on the cusp of opening a second location, Bob Fish and Michael McFall, on a handshake and $4,000, decided to franchise the concept. The brand’s cultural values of Make Friends, Have Fun, B Yourself and Share Great Coffee help coffee lovers and the coffee-curious alike benefit from a less pretentious and fun approach to the standard gourmet cafe paradigm. Besides connoisseur-worthy drinks with names like Teddy Bear® and Caramel Marvel®, BIGGBY® COFFEE baristas provide a unique experience focused on brightening their customers’ day and supporting them in building a life they love. The “Big ‘B’” on the orange background caught on, and today BIGGBY® COFFEE has 379 cafes across many states, including Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Idaho, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Florida.