Brewing up growth
Coffee company with Austin connection percolates with potential for more than 1,300 stores in U.S.
Big things are brewing for a San Antonio company with Austin ties. Veteran-founded Black Rifle Coffee Co., which maintains corporate offices in San Antonio and Salt Lake City, plans to caffeinate its national expansion with $225 million that it hopes to raise from transforming into a publicly traded business.
Markets being targeted in the expansion include San Antonio, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Houston, as well as Salt Lake City; Phoenix; Charlotte, North Carolina; Washington, D.C.; and Norfolk, Virginia.
By the end of 2023, Black Rifle Coffee wants to have seven stores in the San Antonio market, 13 in the Dallas-Fort Worth market, nine in the Houston market, and almost 80 company-owned and franchised stores in total. Black Rifle is a purveyor of ground, whole-bean, and ready-to-drink coffee.
Two of the company’s eight stand-alone stores are in the San Antonio area, and another is planned in that market.
New stores also are planned for two Texas cities near the U.S. Army’s Fort Hood, in Harker Heights and Temple.
According to the company’s website, Houston’s first two Black Rifle shops are on the way (7086 Highway 6 North and 12020 FM 1960). In Dallas-Fort Worth, one more store is on the drawing board at the moment (9001 U.S. Highway 377 South in Benbrook). Black Rifle’s first DFW store is in North Richland Hills.
Aside from the San Antonio and DFW areas, the company’s existing stores are in Clarksville, Tennessee; Layton, Utah; Moore, Oklahoma; Niceville, Florida; and Savannah, Georgia.
With the $225 million to be raised from the proposed merger, Black Rifle would aim to grow its store count to 78 in 2023. Aside from selling coffee at its shops, the company hawks coffee online and through retailers such as Sam’s Club, Walmart, H-E-B, Bass Pro Shops, and Cabela’s. The company also offers Black Rifle apparel and gear.
Ultimately, the company could potentially have more than 1,300 coffee shops across the country.
On November 2, Black Rifle unveiled plans to go public through a merger with a “blank check” company, Austin-based SilverBox Engaged Merger Corp. I. SilverBox Engaged Merger completed a $345 million initial public offering of its stock in March; its stock now trades on the NASDAQ stock market.
The sole purpose of a “blank check” company is to eventually merge with or acquire another business. At the outset, such companies do not engage in full-fledged business operations.
SilverBox Engaged Merger is affiliated with SilverBox Capital LLC, an Austin-based investment firm. Newport Beach, California-based investment manager Engaged Capital LLC has earmarked $100 million to buy stock in the new company.
If the merger goes through, the stock of the new company, BRC Inc., would trade on the NASDAQ market. The $10-a-share transaction would value Black Rifle at roughly $1.7 billion.
Black Rifle, founded in 2014, expects its 2021 revenue to reach $230 million, up from $164 million in 2020 and $82 million in 2019.
“From the time I was a one-man operation in my garage with nothing more than a 1-pound roaster, I wanted to use coffee as a means of bringing people together around the common idea of honoring those who serve this great nation. We founded Black Rifle Coffee to serve the highest-quality coffee while supporting veterans and their families,” Evan Hafer, founder and CEO of Black Rifle, says in a news release.
Hafer, who served as a Green Beret in the Army, splits his time between San Antonio and Salt Lake City.
A portion of every Black Rifle purchase goes to causes supporting military veterans, active-duty military members, first responders, “and the American way of life.”
Given its conservative “American way of life” bent, Black Rifle has attracted both admirers and critics. In July, The New York Times Magazinepublished a lengthy profile of the company with this headline: “Can the Black Rifle Coffee Company Become the Starbucks of the Right?”
The company gained fans in conservative political circles during the administration of President Donald Trump.
“Before long, Black Rifle became the unofficial coffee of the MAGA universe, winning public endorsements from Sean Hannity and Donald Trump Jr.,” the Times reported.
Along the way, Black Rifle has become entangled in controversies over the Black Lives Matter movement, the January 6 riot at the Capitol, and other hot-button issues. The Times says the company has tried to distance itself from some of its most divisive customers.
“How do you build a cool, kind of irreverent, pro-Second Amendment, pro-America brand in the MAGA era,” the Times quotes Hafer as saying, “without doubling down on the MAGA movement and also not being called a [expletive] RINO by the MAGA guys?”