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CHELSEA, MI-Two former airlines employees are flying high with their Chelsea-based coffee company. Most recently, the pair announced plans to add five new locations by year’s end. Previous Northwest Airlines employees Debi and Doug Scroggins founded their first Bearclaw Coffee Co. store in Dexter on N. Territorial and Dexter-Pinckney Road in June 2002, and have seen sales double within the company ever since.

Since that time, the couple has also launched a second corporate-owned store and three franchised locations, with almost every store boasting a convenient drive-thru window. The new stores are slated this year for Chelsea, Ann Arbor, Canton, downtown Detroit, and Brooklyn, said Debi Scroggins. The company-owned Chelsea location is expected to open in October as a drive-thru location in a strip mall on the corner of old US Highway 12 and Freer Road.

The Ann Arbor store, a franchise, is slated for the former Tuomy Hills gas station, currently a University Bank drive-thru, where Washtenaw Ave. and Stadium Blvd. intersect. That location will also be drive-thru and is expected to open Nov. 1.

As Northwest employees, the Scroggins had traveled throughout Alaska and the West Coast, where they happened upon drive-thru espresso bars on practically every corner, something they felt was really lacking in Michigan. They purchased the first store location for $27,000, leased the land, and opened in June 2002 as first-time business owners, putting their 401(k) retirement funds and home equity on the line. They also spent $40,000 renovating the tiny structure, turning it into a log cabin and giving it a campy feel.

Before long, customers at the drive-thru were inquiring about franchises, and in 2004 the first franchised location opened in Irish Hills. Since then, franchises have popped up in Ypsilanti and downtown Dexter, which opened in last month and already is the company’s top-selling location, projecting gross sales of about $400,000 by the year’s end.

Today, the original location registers about $300,000 a year in gross sales, and some of its best customers are weekend mountain bikers headed for the nearby Potawatomi Trail. The Scroggins also opened a second company-owned location in South Haven in 2003. The initial franchise fee for Bearclaw is $10,000, and the royalty fee is four percent of the store’s monthly gross sales. Bearclaw’s coffee and syrups are supplied by Perk & Brew Corp. of Ann Arbor. Projected revenue for 2005 is just over $1 million, Scroggins said.

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