Chs Buys Into Mountain Mudd

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Forming a unique new alliance, CHS Inc. the company that owns Cenex has purchased a portion of Mountain Mudd, LLC, a Billings specialty coffee company that was founded 13 years ago by Dennis and Brenda Burkhartsmeier.

The joint venture is a strategic move that brings benefits to both companies. For the chain of some 1,000 convenience stores owned by CHS, it is an opportunity to expand retail sales with the outdoor placement of Mountain Mudd specialty coffee kiosks, without detracting from inside sales. Placing Mountain Mudd kiosks on CHS properties does not preclude the company from locating them elsewhere.

CHS, the 188th largest company in the US, is a very diverse company with holdings that extend beyond the energy business. They include finance and credit card services, insurance and marketing, all of which bring broad support and financing for Mountain Mudd, said Dennis Burkhartsmeier. "They are an amazing company," said Burkhartsmeier.

Mountain Mudd, with over a hundred kiosks in 22 states, has been ranked, the last couple of years, as the fourth or fifth largest coffee company in the US, said Burkhartsmeier. It is their goal, said Burkhartsmeier, to become the second largest company after Starbucks.

Two years ago, Mountain Mudd purchased a larger facility at 2120 Third Avenue in Billings, in preparation of gearing up production, explained Burkhartsmeier, so they are ready for this new phase in business. They anticipate hiring an additional 15 employees, to join the approximately 100 people they now employ.

While Mountain Mudd started out with a few kiosks selling specialty coffee, at one point they shifted focus to building quality kiosks and selling them to vendors of all kinds, offering the Mountain Mudd banner as an option. "We didn't realize the value of the brand," said Burkhartsmeier. Today, the only kiosks they make fly the Mountain Mudd banner.

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