By Jamie Siebrase | Jun 05, 2017
Coffee and tea
Employees: 200+ (including Dazbog and Dazbog stores)
Industry: Food & Beverage
Products: Coffee and tea
In 1979, brothers Leonid and Anatoly Yuffa emigrated from St. Petersburg, Russia with their parents and three other siblings. "Our parents told us that this was the land of opportunity. 'Dream,' they said, 'and fulfill your dream.' And that's what we did," says Leonid, president, COO, and master roaster for one of Colorado's most iconic beverage brands.
When Leonid graduated from CU Boulder, he wanted to start a café. After cutting his teeth in the industry selling equipment -- espresso machines, et cetera -- Leonid learned how to roast, too.
"By 1995, I'm telling my older brother that this is a great business and I'm good at it," Leonid recalls. A year later, he and Anatoly, now Dazbog's CEO, started their company with three goals in mind: The brothers wanted to out-serve their competitors, produce the best coffee on the market, and create a memorable brand.
Today, Dazbog claims a presence on most major grocers' shelves and has nearly three dozen retail stores from Castle Rock up to Cheyenne. But the manufacturing giant wasn't always such a retail giant.
"We started our business with strictly wholesale and branding," explains Leonid. Early on, Dazbog landed accounts with hotels and organic markets. "One of our specialties has always been certified organic coffee," Leonid explains. It's fitting, then, that Dazbog's first big accounts were with Wild Oats and Natural Grocers (Vitamin Cottage back then).
"Organics have always been close to our hearts," continues Leonid, pointing to Dazbog's 360 degrees of sustainability program, which helps farmers and their families live better, pesticide-free lives while delivering clean coffee to consumers.
Mainstream consumers wanted in on the Dazbog brand, too, and the company began selling its beans at King Soopers, City Market, and Safeway. "We really expanded our presence here in the Rocky Mountain region," Leonid says, adding, "Part of our success is the way we roast the coffee."
Dazbog coffee is manufactured on Italian brick oven coffee roasters. They're drum shaped like the competition, but lined with brick, which provides a second source of heat. "It's the most evenly roasted coffee you can buy," says Leonid.
As for Dazbog's roasting philosophy, Leonid says, "We are right between the first and third wavers." The first wave of Starbucks-type roasters generally believes in a very dark roast, Leonid explains, noting that the third wave -- the artisan brands -- believes in a very light roast.
Dazbog makes light and dark roasts, but Leonid says the lion's share of its business is "right in the middle, right where the natural sugars in the coffee caramelize." New customers are often surprised by Dazbog's naturally sweet flavor.
Coffee beans grow in four regions, and Dazbog carefully sources its ingredients from each. "The bean matters a lot," Leonid says.
So does freshness. Two decades into business, Dazbog still roasts its beans to spec. Orders placed on Monday, for example, will be roasted, packaged, and delivered by Wednesday. "In 21 years, I've been able to grow our manufacturing to have large enough capacity to do a quick turn on most orders," says Leonid.
The Yuffa brothers use their packaging to tell their story from Russia: "And the consumers have really fallen in love with it," Leonid says. White Nights Espresso, for example, is named for the summer days in Leningrad when the sun never sets. The Hermitage, once home to the czars and now a world-renowned museum, provided inspiration for Hermitage House Blend. "We have a lot of fun with Russian names," Leonid says.
In 2006, Dazbog expanded into retail, opening its flagship café in Cherry Creek North. That first store did well, so well that the Yuffa brothers began franchising. Leonid and Anatoly own 14 Dazbog cafés, and the remaining stores are licensed.
"In our cafes, almost everything is from a local purveyor," says Leonid, listing off burritos, baked goods, and more. The company has done well responding to Colorado consumers, with gluten-free offerings and cold-brew coffee. In fact, all Dazbog retail stores will be installing cold-brew taps this year.
Pricing might be Dazbog's most interesting point of distinction. The company's 12-ounce bags start at an affordable $11, and the company offers a few pricier micro-lots. "I think some of the pricing you see with artisan coffee is not in touch with the cost of producing coffee," says Leonid. "I don't think that the bag delivers what the price is producing."
Regardless, Dazbog is still a premium boutique coffee roaster. And premium is premium, but, as Leonid puts it, "We try to make a living, not a killing.
Dazbog means good fortune. "It's two Russian words," Leonid clarifies. "It's a fortuitous saying. And it's fitting." He explains, "We've been very fortunate pursuing the dream we started in 1996. Twenty-one years later, I still get as excited when we get a new account as I did in the beginning."
Challenges: "Right now, in this town, the labor market is very challenging to retailers, manufacturers, and everyone in between," Leonid says. "Our biggest challenge is to find great talent."
Opportunities: More space. Dazbog owns two side-by-side facilities a mile southe of downtown Denver, and the company is in the process of improving its manufacturing site. "Look within the next 12 months at our facility, and it's going to be something very special," says Leonid.
Needs: See "Challenges." The Yuffa brothers are always searching for talented new people to work for their company.