MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Usually in DeRusha Eats, WCCO visits a restaurant or a company that’s making a new food or drink product.
But this time, WCCO visited a second generation St. Paul business that makes something you see on the table at restaurants all over town.
A hand-crafted coffee mug with a branded medallion so cool, the customers want to buy them to take home.
This Mid-Morning, Jason DeRusha goes to Deneen Pottery.
A father and son walking among the kilns and the pottery wheels in St. Paul, a setup not so different than when Peter Deneen started Deneen Pottery in 1972.
“Did you imagine when you started this business that this is what it would become?” DeRusha asked.
“I imagined that it could. But I really didn’t think I’d be lucky enough to see it through to this level of production,” Peter said.
Peter’s brother John in a potter here.
“Refining the process that dad’s been doing since before I was born is just amazing,” Niles Deneen said.
His son Niles is the CEO.
“I’m proud to say I’m the best thing he ever made,” Niles said.
You’ve probably seen Deneen Pottery’s mugs at local restaurants.
They make them for the Original Pancake House, Cook St. Paul and Glam Doll Donuts.
“The restaurants, they’re fun partners. Because that’s what we like most, that our mugs get used. Not just put on a shelf or at the back of a cupboard,” Niles said. “We love being part of the process.”
The process makes Deneen’s mugs so unique. Nine potters create the mug shapes. They get fired in 2100 degree kilns. Meanwhile, artists create these incredibly detailed medallions.
“What really makes it unique is the quality of reproduction that we’re able to achieve in the clay,” Peter said.
It’s a top secret molding technique that keeps the Deneen family busy.
“We figure its 24 pairs of hands to touch each piece through the production process,” Niles said. “Its amazing.”
When Niles started almost ten years ago, Deneen had 30 employees making 500 mugs a day. Today the staff has doubled and they make nearly 2000 pieces.
The glaze colors are all Peter’s original recipes.
But today’s strategy is all Niles.
He’s extending the business to national parks, restaurants and repeat businesses who also sell to their customers.
“He’s my exit strategy,” Peter joked.
During his visit, Deneen even made DeRusha some customized mugs for WCCO.