The Gutwein Family Story

The Gutwein Family Story

The Gutwein family was not always in the coffee business. Although they have been drinking coffee all of their lives, from generation to generation, they have only been singularly focused on sourcing and roasting 100% Arabica coffee beans for the past decade.

Here is their whole story, starting more than a century ago.

In 1906, the Gutwein family left their home in Cservenka, Austria-Hungary, and set sail for America. While in Cservenka, Austria-Hungary, the Gutwein family had owned a farm and successful flour milling business, yet they were united in a common purpose as they said goodbye to their homeland—they wanted to find freedom.

After finally settling in America in 1920, the family continued milling flour and formed the Gutwein Milling Company in Indiana. Philip and each of his eight children were stockholders. Milling flour was in high demand throughout small American towns, each with their own bakery. Several years later, the Gutweins also began a wholesale feed business. Over time, the feed business expanded while flour sales diminished, and in 1950, Gutwein Milling Company became a feed mill exclusively.

Sadly, the mill experienced a devastating fire in 1950 that threatened to ruin the family business. After the fire, Nate Gutwein decided to leave his college studies and devote all his time and energy to helping rebuild the family business from the ground up. His encouragement, convictions, and effort were desperately needed for the company to continue.

Over the years, Gutwein Milling Company continued to expand and created a wholesale distribution to feed stores around the states of Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois. They also expanded into livestock and grain farming.

In the early '90s, the business transitioned its focus from livestock feed to wild bird food—then a new category of feed, which Elden Gutwein realized was not only growing in demand but was also something his company could easily produce. Elden knew the company would need to provide the right products to continue operating a relevant and competitive wholesale distribution business. Within a few months, their new Morning Song Wild Bird Food brand was acquiring new customers every week.

During the summers and after school growing up, the Gutwein brothers (Brad and Cary), were accustomed to working in the feed mill, on the livestock and grain farms, loading trailers, and wherever else they were needed. They were in charge of cleaning the office each Saturday morning and could often be found cleaning, painting, or mowing something. There was always work to be done, and through this manual labor, they learned the impact hard work, integrity, and faith could have on a company.

Brad Gutwein joined the family business after graduating from Purdue University in 1989. He began managing the feed mill and the small bird food manufacturing plant and worked closely with his father, Elden, to learn about their business and customers. He quickly began to notice that while they were manufacturing, packaging, and selling increasing amounts of wild bird food to their customers, most sales were to the small farm and feed stores. Consumers who purchased wild bird food were gradually migrating towards larger chain stores.

To continue growth, Brad knew there would need to be another shift in which the business became solely focused on wild bird food sales to these larger retailers. However, although wild bird food sales were increasing and the future, the majority of sales revenue and profits were derived from bulk and packaged livestock feeds. The company had to maintain those customers and sales while simultaneously growing their wild bird food sales. It was a tough parallel track, but necessary to provide a brighter future for the business. As bird feed sales grew, so did their customer base.

Cary Gutwein entered the business in 1993 and began calling on accounts and helping to reorganize the business for greater growth. By 1996, Gutwein & Company no longer needed sales revenue from the fledgling bulk and packaged livestock feed. They repurposed their plant production to utilize it for blending and packaging wild bird food and in turn, earned business from larger clients.

During their years of growth, they built six manufacturing plants around the country to better serve their growing customer base. Then in 2005, with Brad as President and Cary as VP of Operations, the Gutwein brothers led their nearly 100-year-old family business into a successful acquisition by The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company.

So what do you do after a century of family business history passes down from generation to generation?

You look for the only globally, recession-proof, product category you can find: COFFEE.

The Gutwein brothers had already been drinking and loving coffee for years. When they attended a trade show in 2005, there was a coffee business on display. That little company gave them the idea that they could use their decades of experience in agriculture, production, packaging, and marketing, and apply it to the coffee industry.

Coffee became their singular business passion and pursuit from that point forward. Then in 2007, Brad and Cary purchased Copper Moon Coffee, LLC (originally founded in the late 1960s), from Sun Capital Partners of Boca Raton, Florida. Since then, they have acquired many different coffee-related brands.

Similar to their grandfather and great-grandfather, the Gutwein brothers are continuing their family heritage of working together. Just like the Gutwein family members who moved to America 100 years ago, the fourth generation is passionate about building a great company that operates on sound business principals, cares for their partners and employees, and is guided by their faith in Jesus Christ.

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