A true Chicagoan through and through, Mr. Pugh embodies the city in its entirety. His fast talking, profanity laced tirades give the impression of an old-school city born businessman, eager for his next venture, but if you dig a bit deeper you’ll find a man with a deep sense of responsibility and care for the people around him.
Since his formative years, Mr. Pugh’s carried the weight of responsibility while keeping his long-term ambitions in his purview. Never aspiring to be an entrepreneur, he was merely a man trying to make it.
“When I was young I had a son at 17, at 22 I had a daughter, I was already married. I just wanted to make enough money to feed them and pay rent. When I was a young father it was tough.”
The full-time father, husband, and post-office employee soon entered the real-estate world, and brought his work ethic with him. His intelligence combined with grit allowed him to succeed, accumulating enough capital to take on larger risks, one of which would end up changing the rest of his life.
“Fast forward to 2004 and I had childhood friends that wanted to open a coffee house. At the time I didn’t drink coffee, I don’t like sweets, I was into real-estate. I thought they wanted to rent out one of my commercial properties, because I was into real-estate, but they wanted me as a partner because I was capital heavy from all the real-estate and I had the bricks. They had the know how. On paper it looked like a perfect marriage, naw.
Philosophical differences and ideas lead to it not working out, but I wanted to continue doing it because I already invested so much money. The original coffee house was called Bronzeville coffee house. After we parted ways I came up with the brand sip and savor. From there I looked at different ways from Starbucks, Caribou, or Peet’s. I wanted to bring a community feel, but I also wanted it to be someone’s home.”
The minor setback was insufficient for the formidable coffee entrepreneur. He researched the industry, experimented with formulas, and absorbed everything there was to know about the business. His early years were filled with near complete failure but he managed to keep the spark lit long enough to endure.
“In entrepreneurship you aren’t making money right away. Between payroll, taxes, insurance, vendor, and attorney fees. All your different disposable stuff you have to pay, you are providing something and taking a risk. I did all this while working a full-time job. But I got great people that work for me. They believe in my vision and are willing to do whatever it takes.”
Very few business owners can claim they built a successful enterprise while adhering to their principles, but Mr. Pugh can. He’s built several world-class coffee shops in locations that his larger competitors shy away from. He’s serving delectable, fair-trade coffee in a vibrant venue. Most importantly he’s built a place both his customers and employees love.
“This coffee house is set-up like a bar, they get to talk to the barista, banter, get to know about the kids. If you have a standoffish employee, they won’t survive in my company. You have to understand the feel, the vibe, it’s all inclusive. You can come in crying because your man left, but the barista will sit up like a bartender and talk to you about your problems. That’s what differentiates us from a traditional coffee house.”
He’s built an empire providing a high quality product, all while creating jobs on the southside of Chicago. Fortunately for us, Sip and Savor has endured the test of time and appears to be here to stay. To get to where Mr. Pugh is at, to emulate his success, he boils it down to one word — sacrifice.
“Be ready to sacrifice, you go without sleep, sacrifice personal relationships, credit score, you really gotta sacrifice. You gotta put everything else on hold.”
Sacrifice coupled with integrity, has allowed Mr. Pugh to create a coffee enterprise that serves palette and purpose with every interaction.