Before the major coffee companies began popping up on every corner, there were young, adventurous travelers scouring the globe for the newest flavor, a more unique aroma, and the next great coffee bean. One of those young adventurers was Christian Waskiewicz, who began a year-long, trans-European excursion while finishing his college degree in the late 1980s. While trekking through the Austrian Alps, Waskiewicz had a complete vision of his future company and spent the next year visiting coffeehouses throughout Vienna, Hamburg, Stockholm and Paris, learning the intricacies and techniques of the world’s best coffee producers.
Upon returning to the U.S., Waskiewicz founded Alpen Sierra Coffee in South Lake Tahoe in 1991. But after struggling with an influx of corporate competition and a sagging economy, he decided to relocate to Minden, NV. “Having the flexibility to constantly adapt to changes means making tough decisions when the current direction is not working. [That’s the] key to not only surviving, but thriving,” said Waskiewicz. Paying attention to market factors and business trends has allowed Waskiewicz to build a business that has thrived for nearly 30 years.
Pairing business management adaptability with a commitment to quality – in products and processes – has solidified Alpen Sierra’s reputation as a trusted partner for customers and producers. For Waskiewicz, this commitment to quality is not just about pouring a good cup of coffee, it’s about producing a quality end product while also maintaining sustainable and responsible business practices. Since inception, Alpen Sierra has been an early adopter of green technologies and pursued a sustainability certifications from programs including Fair Trade, The Rainforest Alliance, and the Café Femenino Program. Delivering delicious coffee through responsible business practices is what Waskiewicz calls “true quality” and something he works every day to maintain and advance. “Alpen Sierra practices wholehearted sustainability in all facets of its business,” Waskiewicz said, “[Our] reputation for unwavering quality, not only with local customers, but globally with coffee producers, has contributed to the company’s 28 successful years in business.”
Alpen Sierra’s rise has been deliberate and calculated, but hasn’t been obstacle free. The move from South Lake Tahoe to Minden didn’t solve every problem, as seasonal business fluctuation, staffing challenges, and large corporate competitors keep the Alpen Sierra team continually working smarter and harder. Joining statewide marketing cooperative Made in Nevada is one way they’ve expanded their brand awareness and connected with a broad range of Nevada businesses in similar situations. With a goal to expand market penetration deeper into the state and surrounding region, they recognize Made in Nevada has “helped open up markets and new clients, identified Alpen Sierra as a local producer, and added value to the brand.”
From college-backpacker to “Coffee Master”, Christian Waskiewicz is proof that hard work and consistency can lead to great things. His one piece of advice for young entrepreneurs: “maintain high standards – always. That means plan smart, work hard and be fair, honest, respectful, and conduct yourself with the utmost integrity.”
Hunt for your new favorite bean with an Alpen Sierra “Taste of Tahoe” subscription. Or take your coffee anywhere with their new “Pour and Explore” product line – all you need is your favorite cup and some hot water! Find out more at www.alpensierracoffee.com.