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A look into Excellent Coffee Company.

As a successful Table Talk Pie salesman in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in the late 1940's and with a solid account base primarily in the restaurant business, Michael Kapos recognized the opportunity to provide his customers with a quality blend of coffee. With his family already in the coffee roasting business in New Jersey, Michael wasted no time in learning "the ins and outs" of the business. As coffee sales steadily climbed, Kapos focused full time on his newly established company - Excellent Coffee Co. When business increased, he then purchased roasted coffees from the Eppens Smith Co. of New York where he established a close relationship with George Sheridan, one of firm's top salesman who later founded Fairwinds Coffee. Sheridan is still recognized throughout the industry as one of the most knowledgeable people in the coffee business. He continues to share his expertise and participates in the art of cupping at Excellent Coffee Co. on a regular basis.

By the early 1950's, with an acquired knowledge of the coffee business, combined with years of experience in sales, Kapos' fledgling company was poised for growth. Kapos established warehouse space in New Bedford, Massachusetts, as well as in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. He began to expand his product line to include the sale of restaurant and coffee brewing equipment, and broadened his customer base to include foodservice and institutional customers. Michael's untimely and debilitating stroke at the young age of 46, left the growing company without a leader.

It was in 1970 when Michael's son, Bill, while still attending college, assumed the leadership of the company. Still a junior at Northeastern University in Boston, Bill arranged for a co-op work/study program which allowed him to run the company while completing his education. After graduation, he was than able to focus full time on Excellent Coffee Company. Applying his formal college training to the company, Bill reorganized the business, positioning the Excellent Coffee Company to compete in an industry that had changed significantly since its founding in the late 1940's.

Recognizing the importance of controlling the quality of the coffee product, Kapos purchased packaging and grinding equipment, enabling roasted beans to be sent, in bulk, directly to Pawtucket. Not long after the procurement of packaging equipment, a roasting plant was constructed adjacent to the corporate headquarters to accommodate the next capital investment, a Jabez Burns Four Bag Smokeless Roaster, giving the firm the distinction of being the first new roasting facility to be built in Rhode Island in 100 years. Additional equipment purchased to ensure a consistently high quality product included a green bean cleaner, Prodopack and General form and fill machines, as well as laboratory equipment including ro-Tap, oxygen level measuring equipment, Probat sample roasters, and an Agtron color meter.

The company's most recent investment in technology is a new computer driven private label printer mounted on a Universal packaging machine, which uses thermal ink transfer to produce high quality, customized packaging. The state-of-the-art technology, one of the few machines in use in today's coffee industry, offers Excellent Coffee's customer the benefit of private labeling without the customary setup charges or minimum runs.

With a roasting and packaging facility in place in Rhode Island, Excellent continued to grow. In 1990, Bill had the opportunity to purchase one of his largest customers, Downeast Coffee, Inc., of Portland, Maine. This acquisition enhanced the company's capabilities to service customers in far northern New England with the addition of warehousing locations in Bangor and Caribou. Since the acquisition three years ago, Downeast Coffee has more than doubled its employees and has quadrupled its trucking fleet which delivers primarily to specialty shops and restaurants. Recently, the Portland location has begun its own manufacturing and packaging of a line of gift packed specialty coffees, including a flavor named Yankee Doodle and a blend called Downeaster. These gift packs can be found in gift shops throughout the state of Maine.

Excellent Coffee's first venture into the retail market has also been piloted under the name of Downeast Coffee, with the opening of an espresso bar in downtown Providence, Rhode Island. The espresso bar, inspired by the classic coffee shop revivals in Seattle, Washington, serves a full line of specialty coffees, by the cup and by the pound, as well as a complete menu of espresso beverages.

Six months into the success of the new coffee bar, the company opened the first outdoor espresso cart in Providence, also under the Downeast Coffee canopy. This popular cart, located in a park directly across from the state's Superior Court House, is a perfect showcase for the espresso equipment being handled by Espresso Northeast, launched in 1992 as a division of Excellent Coffee Company. Espresso Northeast was founded as an authorized distributorship of some of the finest espresso equipment available, such as the La Marzocco and Rio lines. This division is dedicated to the education of true espresso brewing, providing comprehensive training programs. Espresso Northeast matches customers with equipment that assures the right fit with their needs and budget, and supports this with field service representatives who provide round-the-clock maintenance. To complement the Espresso Northeast line of equipment and accessories, Excellent Coffee has become a regional distributor of the full line of Dolce Italian syrups, which are used to flavor lattes and cappuccinos.

In 1993, the company increased its presence in the retail market with the acquisition of Ocean Coffee Roasters, a seven year old Rhode Island-based chain of specialty coffee cafes with two in-store Diedrich roasters. Ocean Coffee Roasters also supplies a number of local restaurants with their daily roasts, using estate and organic coffees as well as blending atypical beans into exotic blends such as Ocean's Best, Old World, and New Wave Blend. Ocean Coffee Roasters also maintains a full commissary, supplying daily fresh baked goods and light menu items to the four cafes. The wonderful coffees, delicious menu selections, and contemporary decor of the cafes attracts a following from local colleges and late night theater-goers in Providence, to the bustling tourist trade in Newport. Growing requests by cafe customers to continue receiving their favorite specialty coffees after they left Rhode Island was the impetus for publishing a mail order catalogue. Currently the catalogue fulfills orders daily from all across the country.

Through the years, the coffee industry has undergone a number of dramatic changes, with specialty coffee sales emerging as the strongest trend in the market today. However, according to Bill Kapos, president and ceo, selling the best possible coffees along with the best possible service and delivery, is still the foundation of any successful coffee firm. According to Bill, who maintains an active day-to-day involvement in the business operations; Excellent Coffee Company is big enough to offer a full range of products at competitive prices, but small enough to maintain the highest quality and service-as well as the personal touch that only a family-run business can provide."

The Excellent Coffee Company has grown rapidly from a one person enterprise to its present size employing more than 100 people.

The Company's committed sales force, prompt service department, professional customer service team, and a transportation fleet with dedicated drivers, presently provide daily coffee deliveries and equipment maintenance throughout the Northeast. As a privately owned regional roaster, imported green coffees of the highest quality are also made available to micro roasters, with free delivery available to customers within a 75 mile radius of the plant. These are the same quality beans which are roasted, custom blended, ground, flavored and packaged in both bulk sizes as well as individual ground packets, on premise, at the Pawtucket, Rhode Island facility. Whether packaged or brewed the end product, an "Excellent" cup of coffee, can be enjoyed from donut shops to institutions, offices to fine restaurant tables, as close as Newport, Rhode Island and as far away as Pennsylvanian and Florida.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
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Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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