Jonathan Riethmaier, owner of Mammoth Espresso in New Orleans, is fulfilling his dreams by running a coffee shop that’s all about the customer experience. While good brews are always a goal, creating lasting, positive relationships with his customers is certainly the priority.
The story behind Mammoth Espresso
So how did Mammoth Espresso come to be?
Mammoth Espresso is really the combination of about 10 years worth of work and ideas and my experience in the coffee industry — having been a barista and then on the marketing side of the coffee profession and collecting components of the vision for how I wanted to provide a service.
I came to New Orleans four years ago with this idea of an experiential style of service that New Orleans was uniquely fit to be a part of.
The pace of the city and the flow of things here really matched with how we wanted to serve people — a way to sort of slow down and really cater to the experience and not necessarily the transactional portion of customer service.
What’s the best part of your day since you’ve opened the shop?
The best part of my day is when I’m not behind the bar, and I’m watching people who don’t know who I am having an awesome experience here. And it’s fulfilling because I get to see people appreciating and getting a lot of value out of something we deliver to them — and not because they know me personally, but because they see what we do, they see how great the staff is here, and I get to just be witness to them.
What advice would you share, based on the experiences you’ve had, with other entrepreneurs looking to start a coffee shop?
I think everyone is really different. To me, I had to feel like I knew every aspect of running a coffee business before I ran a coffee business.
I have talked to a number of people who are looking to do something similar, and it’s important to learn everything you can at every part of how you run that business.
So you have to know the coffee, you have to study customer service, and just the dynamics of interpersonal relationships and small group communication. You have to know the operations in business — you know, take classes in accounting, work with your local small business administration — and it’s kind of a do-everything-you-can mentality. Not only fine-tune the things that are already great, but also make sure you account for things that could be your weakness when running that business.
Any aspect in particular that was difficult for you?
I think the worst thing I had to do when opening this business was take online accounting courses. And it’s just something I never paid much attention to because I didn’t have to before, and all of a sudden I’m like, “I’m running a business, and I need to know this part of the works.”
How do you measure success?
Man, if we measure success in a few words, it kind of changes depending on where we are right now.
We’re about to approach our two-year anniversary, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what does success look like for us right now. At 2-years-old — saying we’re doing things exactly as we set out to do and following those concepts we thought would be successful — we’re still here. The style of service is working.
But there is, you know, that broader picture of what does success look like. Every day we have measurements we work at, you know. We know, for example, what our revenues have to be in a given day as a benchmark, right? But also qualitatively, we look at what are our interactions with our customers are like, and then how are we growing those relationships and building relationships with new customers. For Mammoth Espresso, we are built to be experiential — and success is when we can see that thriving.
When you go home at night, what makes it all worth it for you?
Oh man, I think every day I’m living the dream. All I’ve wanted to do for, you know, the last 15 years is run a coffee company. And the fact that I’m sitting here doing it? I mean, I count my blessings every day.
It’s the funniest thing to run a small business — there’s a lot of challenges, but to get up every day and know I’m doing exactly what I want to do in this world is incredibly fulfilling.
And, you know, I have a family as well. Running this business, I’m working more hours than I ever had in my life — and I still see my family more than I ever have in my life. My wife works from a coffee table. She works for a genetics lab, and she’s in here every day doing the work.
I see my children routinely because they are in here with me. Having a similar experience — growing up the son of a grocery store owner — I recall seeing my dad at work. I saw him doing his job, and I knew in a very real way what it looked like to work. To have my kids around that, too — they know what I do, they see what I do — that’s an exciting thing I wasn’t getting in a previous life when I was behind the computer all day in an office building.