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Trez V. Pugh III of Sip & Savor Coffee House bringing flavor to the people

Photo courtesy of Trez V. Pugh

Black history is something that we tend to speak about as if all the accomplishments have been achieved. In truth, Black history is being made every day. As Black people continue to crush barriers and stereotypes every day, rolling out’s mission is to chronicle the stories of who empower themselves and in turn empower others. We are honored to feature Black businesses and business owners as they represent the engine to our freedom.

Today, we feature Trez V. Pugh III the owner of Sip & Savor Coffee House.

Time in business:  13 years

Favorite quote from an African American: “If you can’t fly then run if you can’t run then walk if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” -Martin Luther King

Twitter: @SipSavorChi

Instagram: @sipandsavorchicago

Facebook: sipandsavorchicago


Talk about what inspired you to go into business.

I started off in the real estate game back in the late 1990’s, as an investor. I was approached by a childhood friend who loved coffee, who I thought just wanted to rent out my commercial space to open up a shop. He had tried to open a shop before but it didn’t work out to well. Needless to say, my friend talked me into not only renting the space to him free but convinced me to go into business with him and another guy. The three of us opened Bronzeville Coffee House in 2005. After four years or so, things were kind of up and down and took a turn for the worse. I shut down the business, parted ways with my partners and started my own coffee house business called Sip & Savor.

What does it mean to you to run your own business?

Running my own Coffee House is both satisfying and frustrating at times, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I am directly responsible for creating jobs and changing communities when things go south. Some of the biggest challenges I face are twofold dealing with the constant need for capital to run the operations efficiently i.e. paying gas, light, insurance, taxes, payroll, inventory, vendors, mortgage, equipment, etc. Secondly, finding those talented, motivated, and pleasant potential employees to represent my brand. I was able to overcome the capital piece by reaching out to private investors who believed in my vision and understood business models. Most of my investors are my loyal customers.

What is the biggest misconception about being a Black business owner?

People think we don’t take pride in our product or the service we provide and we don’t understand the importance of class and elegance. I have a saying in our company and that is we pride ourselves on the 5 C’s; crisp, clean, classy, consistent, customer sService. Customer service is paramount in my company, I expect my baristas to learn our customer’s names, their drinks, and any other thing they deem important that they can associate with that particular customer. We definitely want every last one of our customers to be handled with a personal touch, we want them to feel like VIPs.

What value does your business provide to the community?

Our tagline at Sip & Savor is “Where Coffee and Community Meet.” Our coffeehouses feature art on the walls by local artist, photography by local photographers, we have comedy shows on the back patio, featuring comics from the neighborhood, we offer music via DJ’s and bands, and they are all from the neighborhood. We take time to feed and provide coffee and tea to the homeless and we rent our venue out to the community to have meetings, celebrations, etc. We truly believe in giving back to the communities in which we serve.

What historic African American figure has inspired you the most and why?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has always been a major inspiration to me. His ability to deal with so much racism, anger, hate, and just flat-out unfairness and maintain his cool and calm demeanor was phenomenal to me. He showed us how to love and how to be tolerant; his patience and willpower to stay focused on his mission despite all the obstacles that were in his path was beyond inspiring. 

How have you incorporated technology into your growth?

One of the things that I am proudest of when it comes to my coffee houses is we use a ton of technology to assist us in our day-to-day operations. We use a state of the art staffing and scheduling App that all employees have on their smartphones. This app lets them know their schedules, it allows them to put in for time off, they are able to communicate directly to other employees in the event of an emergency, and a host of other things. 

When you are hiring employees what do you look for?

When we are hiring employees we are looking for someone who has a beautiful smile, an engaging personality, someone who is neat, clean and speaks well. This person will be representing my brand and again it goes back to the 5 C’s. Of course, we want someone who is respectful, prompt, eager to learn, understands to some extent how to deal with problem-solving, some conflict resolution, decision making, and just plain old common sense and manners.

What do you want the legacy of your business to be?

I want the legacy of Sip & Savor to be exactly what our tagline states: that we are where Coffee and Community Meet. Our legacy should be judged on what we did in the community, Did we give back? Were we humble? Did we help others? Did we create jobs, did we add value, and did we do all of this in a respectful and dignified manner?