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Chicago Entrepreneur and Mall Coffee Icon Gloria Jean Kvetco Has Died

Gloria Jean Kvetko

Gloria Jean Kvetko at the 2021 grand opening of a Gloria Jean’s Coffee Chicago headquarters. RFG press photo.

Gloria Jean Kvetko, the Chicagoland entrepreneur who founded Gloria Jean’s Coffee in 1979, died on June 14 at the age of 82.

Born in Chicago in 1941, Kvetko’s first entrepreneurial venture was a beauty shop called Gloria’s Studio One in Wheeling, Illinois. In 1979, Kvetko purchased an existing coffee shop in historic downtown Long Grove, Illinois, and named it Gloria Jean’s Coffee Bean.

By the mid 1980s, Kvetko expanded Gloria Jean’s to shopping centers nationwide, providing traditional drip coffee and espresso-based offerings with an unapologetic menu of sweetened blended iced drinks and intensely flavored coffees.

Competing with other rapidly expanding U.S. rivals such as Starbucks, Peet’s and The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Gloria Jean’s relied upon a franchise model, eventually expanding to more than 220 stores throughout the U.S. under Kvetko’s watch.

Still in her early 50s, Kvetko sold Gloria Jean’s in 1993, and the brand has since changed ownership numerous times, expanding to approximately 900 locations worldwide today. The brand is currently owned by Australia-based Retail Food Group (RFG).

Three years ago, Kvetko joined Retail Food Group to re-establish a Chicago headquarters for the brand with an eye towards additional franchising. On that occasion, she recalled Gloria Jean’s influence in the artificial flavoring of roasted coffees.

“Hazelnut — it was like discovering God,” Kvetko told guests at a grand opening launch. “When I told my husband we’re putting flavored coffees on the shelf, he just went nuts – “no!” — and I said, ‘too bad, you lose, doing it.’ And that changed the coffee world immediately.”

An obituary in the Chicago Tribune remembers Kvetko as “the life of the party” with an “infectious smile, welcoming demeanor, zest for life and unwavering willingness to help others.”

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