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Boston's Coffee Connection is excellent reflector of the specialty coffee boom.

Boston's Coffee Connection is excellent reflector of the specialty coffee boom

The Coffee Connection (CC), Boston, Massachusetts, is a multi-outlet enterprise, devoted to roasting and retailing gourment coffees. It has been significant in the specialty coffee retail market in Greater Boston since its inception in 1975. The company attributes its success to four precepts.

1. Store function and design. Sales are generated by two interdependent sections in every store. At the retail section coffee is sold by the pound, whole bean or ground. Fine loose and prepackaged teas, related equipment (coffeemakers, grinders, teapots, etc.), and point of sale items (chocolates) are also sold. At the take-out section, coffee is prepared by the cup either to go or for on-premises consumption. Espresso, cappuccino, and fresh baked pastries are also popular take-out items. Take-out introduces our customers to our retail products, thus accelerating retail growth, says CC.

Each outlet is efficient, yet friendly and inviting. Each store is designed to integrate with its host community. Stores are unified by common themes of logo, color, and signage.

2. Quality through control over production. The Coffee Connection owns and operates two coffee roasting machines located in its 5,500 square foot Brighton warehouse. Roasting allows CC to purchase selectively at all times and supply Coffee Connection stores with coffee only as needed. Once roasted the shelf life of coffee is measured in days and hours.

Centralizing production keeps costs under control and ensures consistency of finished product in all outlets.

In 1988 the Coffee Connection sold over 230 tons of coffee or the equivalent of over 50,000 strong cups of coffee per day.

3. Controlled opportunistic growth. The Coffee Connection has developed eight stores in 13 years.(*) Locations are selected based on: middle/upper middle class income; high volume foot/auto traffic; visibility, accessibility, and parking; proximity to CC warehouse (a must to maintain freshness) and quality at a reasonable supply cost; compact size, 600 to 700 square feet being ideal, or up to 1,000 square feet if the location is perfect and nothing smaller is available.

4. Enthusiasm and commitment to quality. Roasting and purchasing green (raw) coffee allows the Coffee Connection to develop product expertise; investigate product at source (country of origin); create its own roast styles, blends, and identity; and be a trend setter and quality standard bearer.

The Coffee Connection's retail employees are required to attend seminars for coffee, tea, and equipment. These seminars stress content using slides, comparison tastings, and demonstrations. CC believes a loyal market requires an informed consumer, that enthusiasm is contagious, and that word of mouth is the best form of advertising.

Specialty coffee is the only sector of the coffee industry to experience growth. From 1983 through 1985, consumption of gourmet coffee went up 82 percent in the United States (Business Strategic Planning Associates, Inc.). CC says its experience indicates this growth continues unabated.

CC's Competition has been limited to supermarkets and gourmet food stores offering whole bean coffees as part of a wide product line. Such businesses have no adverse impact as they cannot compete in quality or service. In fact, they often function as a necessary intermediate step in converting the inquiring consumer from canned coffee to the true specialty coffee.

The success of the Coffee Connection and the dynamic nature of the local economy will likely attract other roaster/retailers to the area. A mature model exists in the San Francisco Bay Area. Despite a proliferation of specialty coffee stores during the past 10 years, the original business, Peet's, continues to thrive and expand.

The Coffee Connection will continue expansion in two ways. 1. Downtown take-out centers. CC says it has an unprecedented opportunity to profit from Boston's recent downtown growth, A CC take-out strategically located in a highrise office building with heavy pedestrian traffic, will assure high volume, high margin sales. CC foresees adding three such outlets in the next two years. 2. Mail order. The locations of CC retail outlets have assured it of growing mail order sales. CC has developed a very popular subscription service and periodically ships a specified amount and type of coffee and charges it to the subscriber's credit card account. In 1988, coffee bean sales increased 41 percent over those of 1987.

Coffee Connection is computerizing mail order operations and increasing mail order service visibility in its stores. It will also begin to investigate active development of mail order through national promotion. Mail order sales are expected to exceed $350,000 in 1989.

(*)Harvard Square, 1975; Faneuil Hall, 1976; Newton Centre, 1980; Beacon Hill, 1982; Copley Place, 1984; Lexington Center, 1987; Coolidge Corner, 1988; Wellesley Square, 1989.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
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Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Apr 1, 1990
Words:774
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