Beyond the lens: The man behind Caribou Coffee’s captivating artwork


Allow us to introduce you to the creative force behind the imagery that graces our coffeehouse walls – Tad Conroy. While Tad wears the hat of a Construction Manager on our team, his talents reach far beyond blueprints and building plans. He’s also a remarkable photographer whose work we proudly display throughout our coffeehouses nationwide.

While his work focuses on the rugged beauty of the great outdoors, each image he captures isn’t just a snapshot of nature’s wonders; it infuses the spirit of discovery and togetherness into our coffeehouses. 

tad conroy smiling
Construction Manager Tad Conroy combines his love for photography and Caribou Coffee by capturing images for coffeehouse decor.

From rock climbing walls to coffeehouses

Tad was born in Caribou’s home state of Minnesota and attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, eventually graduating on the dean’s list with a degree in Environmental Design and Architecture. He then got a job building rock climbing walls, which required a lot of travel, and eventually ended up doing a more traditional architecture role as Construction Manager with Caribou Coffee.

During the work week, Tad plays a pivotal role in the design and construction of new Caribou coffeehouses. The average week on the job could include reviewing plans, bidding projects, negotiating contracts and documenting progress to share with the rest of the organization. But that’s not all he does! He’s also an accomplished photographer.

Tad first picked up a camera in high school on a mission trip to Alaska with his grandparents.   “I was so struck by the rugged and beautiful landscape, wildlife and people that I wanted to document it all and show everyone back home,” he says of his initial experience behind the lens.

“The love for photography continued through college; I learned how to develop my own film, how to light a subject in a studio and who Ansel Adams was.” The renowned photographer’s landscape photography helped inform Tad’s own work, and he’s been “enamored” with the photography style since. 

Tad revisited his youthful love of photography shortly after joining the Caribou team. “I realized that I truly missed getting outside and taking photographs,” he shares. “It is my way of expressing myself creatively and I missed it.” He then set out to create new images each day for six months and has continued a version of that practice since. 

Caribou’s design team took notice of Tad’s work and began incorporating them into Caribou coffeehouses, and now coffee lovers across the United States and overseas can delight in his evocative, transportive work every time they pop in for a latte.

photo of high falls at tettegouche state park
A magical morning captured at Tettegouche State Park.

Capturing adventure and awe

One of Tad’s favorite photos, which you’ll find on the walls of several Caribou Coffee locations, was taken at the Upper Falls at Tettegouche State Park. “My family and I were camping on the North Shore and I had to get up before sunrise to catch the light on the falls and the surrounding rock walls,” he explains. “I was on a time crunch due to our check-out time. The universe must have been conspiring in my favor, because when the sun came up the falls and the rock walls were lit up beautifully, and there was a couple sitting and gazing at the falls. It was an awesome moment that I will not forget.”

 “I try to capture a sense of adventure and inspiration in my images,” says Tad. “I want the viewer to see it and say, ‘That’s beautiful, I want to be there.’” Many photos were taken in national and state parks in Minnesota and the western United States. “I hope that they bring a calming effect, that someone can sit and gaze upon a landscape image and their mind can rest there for a moment.”

The evolution of our store designs parallels Tad’s continual exploration of new and captivating places, showcasing the vast beauty of the world around us. We can only imagine where in the world the lens of Tad’s camera will take us next…