Spokane Journal of Business

Entrepreneurial spirit runs in bagel brothers’ family

Einstein Bros. franchisees to add more restaurants

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-—LeAnn Bjerken
Matthew and Mark Schmidt say a diverse group of family members gives guidance and helps subtantially with the business, which currently operates three Einstein Bros. Bagels shops.

On the surface Einstein Bros. Bagels may appear to be just another franchise, but for the Schmidt brothers, Matthew and Mark, it’s always been a family-run business. 

“Our family is definitely very involved in the business,” says Matthew. “They help us out with everything from bookkeeping and human resources, to annual maintenance, and scouting new locations.”

Einstein Bros. Bagels is a bagel and coffee chain launched in 1995 by Boston Chicken, now called Boston Market. The Colorado-based chain now is operated by Einstein & Noah Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of Einstein Noah Restaurant Group Inc.  

The Schmidts, who were nominated for the Journal’s Rising Stars list this year, currently operate three Einstein Bagel stores in the region, two in Spokane and one in Missoula, Mont. 

Each of the locations is operated by parent company MS3 LLC, the Schmidt family business, whose name stands for each of three brothers—Matthew, Mark, and Madison. 

Mark, 32, serves as the general manager for the Spokane restaurants, located at 1601 N. Division and 2 W. Third, while his older brother Matthew, 41, operates the Missoula location. 

Each Einstein location serves bagels, breakfast and lunch sandwiches, coffee, and espresso. The chain also offers catering services for parties of up to 500 people. 

Although they decline to disclose revenues, the brothers say each Einstein location has about 15 employees, and all are doing well in their respective markets.

“Our locations have been well received in both Spokane and Missoula,” says Matthew. “Our current focus is on building our locations in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene markets. We’ve opened three of what will eventually be eight locations, with two more planned for the Spokane area and three planned for Boise.”

Schmidt says he’s currently scouting new locations in the greater Spokane area, and hopes to open another store as early as summer of 2018. 

Matthew is actually a half-brother to Mark and Madison, but both say each of their families has a long history of owning and operating businesses, particularly those associated with food.

Matthew grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his mother and stepfather, attending Salt Lake Community College, and later Stevens-Henager College from which he earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science.

Although he has always had an affinity for computers, Schmidt says he also maintains a passion for real estate, with a large part of his previous career having been spent as a real estate agent in Salt Lake City.

 “I did a lot of land acquisition and development for residential developers, market analysis, and consulting work for residential builders,” he says. “I also did some work with retail site locations for retail stores, which has come in handy in this business.”

Mark Schmidt grew up in Missoula, and graduated from the University of Montana with an associate’s degree in business and entrepreneurship. 

“Before we started with Einstein, I’d begun studying to earn a bachelor’s in accounting, and I still might go back and finish one day,” he says. “I don’t think owning a bagel franchise was really on the radar for either myself or Matt, but it just ended up being a perfect opportunity.”

The brothers say the idea to open an Einstein franchise started after Matthew moved back to Missoula in 2008 to help his father and stepmother run the Mullan Station complex on the corner of Mullan Road and Reserve Street in Missoula. 

“Mullan Station was kind of this all-in-one casino, restaurant, bar, gas station and laundromat,” says Mark. “Ultimately, we decided to sell it to our main competitor, Town Pump Inc., in 2012. We then used that money to invest in our first Einstein location, and now, here we are.” 

Matthew says the family decided on Einstein because it seemed to offer the best opportunity for continued growth and success. 

“The Einstein brand has a good following, and even those who are experiencing it for the first time usually end up becoming regular customers,” he says. “And when we met with their franchise, we were impressed with their operations and felt the company aligned well with our values and what we wanted to do.”

According to Mark, one advantage to being part of a franchise is the experience and tools available through the business’s parent company. 

“They provide a lot of the tools and tricks you need in order to become successful,” he says. “All you have to do is know how to implement them correctly.”

Along with the support of their parent company, the brothers say they also remain closely connected with several immediate family members who serve as managing partners in MS3 LLC.

 “There’s myself and my wife Tiffany, my brother Mark, our younger brother Madison, our father Tom Schmidt and his wife Diane, along with my mother Donna and her husband John Salter,” says Matt. “Everyone brings something to the table.”  

Matthew says his mother and stepfather are in the process of selling their current home in North Carolina, in order to move to the Spokane area to be both closer to family and the business. 

He says having both sets of parents involved in the business has been a unique benefit for everyone.

“There’s a lot of trust, shared experience and invaluable expertise that comes with having all of our parents involved,” he says. “I’ve been really lucky to have four very bright parents to bounce ideas off of. My wife has also been an amazing sounding board.” 

Both brothers say their family members have served as sources of inspiration and encouragement along the way.

“There have been several people in my family who’ve carried an entrepreneurial spirit through the generations,” says Mark. “Starting with my maternal grandfather Buntz Watkins, who was the only one of his siblings not to be born blind, and worked from age 8 to provide for his family. Likewise, my father Tom Schmidt started working at age 10, went on to work for several airlines, and served in the military before starting Mullan Station. They’ve all been great examples of hard work and perseverance.”

Matthew says in starting the Spokane Einstein locations, he also relied on two local professionals in the construction and real estate industries: Guy Byrd, managing director of Spokane commercial real estate brokerage SVN Cornerstone, and Barry Baker, president and CEO of Spokane-based Baker Construction & Development. 

“It’s been amazing to be able to consult those two gentlemen for advice on real estate, building locations, and other challenges as we got started in Spokane,” he says.

Both brothers say they enjoy working close to their families, and that each of the cities they operate in has its own perks. 

“We could have picked any city to open a franchise in,” says Mark. “But we wanted to stay in this region because this is where we’re from, and these are the communities we care about.” 

He adds that Einstein recently partnered with No Kid Hungry, a national organization that works with community groups and local programs to provide meals for children, to provide 2,500 meals for area kids.

The business also regularly partners with several local nonprofits to distribute leftover bagels at the end of each day. “We donate somewhere around 30,000 leftover bagels each year,” he says. 

When it comes to which menu item is their favorite, the two say they have slightly different tastes.

“Interestingly, I’ve lost about 70 pounds since we started working with Einstein,” says Mark. “My go-to is the pretzel bagel, I like it double toasted with extra butter.” 

Meanwhile, Matthew says he prefers to start his day with one of the franchise’s lattes. 

 “I’m addicted to my morning coffee,” he says. “Honestly, I’m more of a sandwich guy, so our green chili club is probably my favorite.”

Looking ahead the brothers say their goals are to continue growing the Einstein locations, and further support their families in future business endeavors.

“I’d like to see each of our locations become a bit more self-sufficient,” says Mark. “I’d also like to start working toward new projects with the family, perhaps something in real estate or housing.” 

Matthew agrees, saying “In the future, I’d like to look at bringing other brands to these markets. I really enjoy both living and working in this area, and I definitely see potential here.”

Although both brothers maintain a passion for food, each says what they most enjoy are the daily operations of each location. 

“I’m a problem solver, and with this work you have to know how to adapt quickly to unexpected situations,” Mark says. “That’s part of the challenge, and the fun of being a business owner.” 

Matthew says he most enjoys serving as a mentor to the business’s employees. 

 “You can always tell who really enjoys their job,” he says. “It’s always a great feeling to help those individuals grow and be successful, because without those passionate employees, we wouldn’t be able to succeed.”

LeAnn Bjerken
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Reporter LeAnn Bjerken is the most recent addition to the Journal's news team. A poet, cat lover and antique enthusiast, LeAnn is also an Eastern Washington University alum.

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