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Lilla's reputation grows throughout the roasting world.

Ten years ago, in January of 1982, the Gold Star Coffee plant in Salem, Massachusetts, began roasting in their newly acquired Lilla roaster. It was a momentous event, for both Gold Star and Lilla. For Gold Star, because after 25 years in the coffee business, they were finally roating the coffee themselves; and, for Lilla, because it was the first Lilla roaster sold in the United States.

Lilla had been building coffee roasters and related equipment in Brazil since 1918, and were by far the largest coffee machinery manufacturer in South America. In the mid-70's, they exported for the first time, almost exclusively to South America. In 1981, they named Daniel J. Block & Co. their exclusive agent for North America and the United Kingdom; and, with the Gold Star plant, their "internationalization" really began.

The Georgilakis family, owners of Gold Star Coffee, played a large part in the introduction of Lilla roasters to the U.S. market. Daughter Cassandra Georgilakis saw the modest Lilla ad in a trade journal. She put it on the desk of Peter Georgilakis, her father and president of the company, with a short note suggesting he investigate. Peter called Daniel Bloch and asked him to pay a visit to Salem to discuss the roaster. Peter was impressed with what he heard about the machine and the price; but, how could he make such an investment without seeing the machine in operation? The obvious answer was that he should, by all means, visit some working Lilla plants, and the best place to do that was in Brazil. On a snowy day in late 1981, Peter, his wife Helen, and Dan Bloch boarded a Varig plane bound for Sao Paulo. The visit was a great success; at the end of a four day stay, Peter Georgilakis and Ciro Lilla, ceo of Cia. Lilla de Maquinas, concluded a deal for the purchase of a four bag Lilla roaster. So quickly and securely was the bond developed between these two executives, that the order was placed and accepted with a handshake! No formal contract was ever signed. The roaster was delivered in late December of 1981, and by January of 1982, was installed, and in production.

With a working roaster in the United States, and sympathetic and enthusiastic supporters like the Georgilakis family, Dan Bloch had his work cut out for him. Every serious inquiry was answered with an invitation to visit the Gold Star plant; and, sales began to develop.

The second roaster, an eight bag model, was also sold in Massachusetts to Interstate Coffee of South Easton. Michael Dovner, only 26 years old at the time, had developed a growing business selling coffee roasted by others to the OCS market and elsewhere. He bought an eight bag Lilla Roaster, and other Lilla equipment (bins, conveyors, etc.), installed it in a new plant in South Easton, and has done extremely well. Hill Bros. bought a four bag roaster for their plant in Casa Grande, Arizona, and subsequently bought three eight baggers, for plants in New Orleans and Suffolk, Virginia.

Paramount Coffee Company of Lansing, Michigan, bought a complete Lilla installation including an automatic green coffee blending system with a 100,000 pound capacity, a four bag roaster, and complete storage and conveyor systems for both roasted and ground coffee. Ron Radway, president of Paramount, who unfortunately passed away last year, became a close friend of both Ciro Lilla and Dan Bloch, and was extremely helpful in building confidence in Lilla when showing them the Paramount plant. His widow, Lila Radway, now runs the business, and has continued to be helpful and enthusiastic about Lilla products. There are now 11 Lilla roasting plants in the U.S., and several more waiting to be purchased when the economy turns around.

Concurrent with the development of the U.S. market, Ciro Lilla and Daniel Block have worked together to gain a foothold in the Mexican market -- there are now five Lilla plants in Mexico; and in Central and South America, Malaysia, India, and most recently the United Kingdom, where the first Lilla roaster was put into operation by Masteroast Coffee of Peterborought, England. Leslie Mills, President of Masteroast, visited the U.S. in the summer of 1981, visited three Lilla plants, and placed his order for a roaster and auxiliary green coffee handling and roast coffee handling equipment. The plant went onstream with a gala inauguration in November of 1981, and is proving itself to the U.K. market by roasting Masteroast's extremely high quality lines of gourmet coffees.

In addition to the growth described above, Lilla has penetrated other markets, like Japan, Indonesia, Lebanon and Bulgaria. In Japan they sold a four bar roaster to Caravan Coffee Co. of Yokohama, who also visited the Gold Star plant in Massachusetts before making their choice.

In total, almost 40 Lilla roasters incorporating the latest design features -smokeless operation, continuous self-cleaning, optional high yield operation, higher fuel efficiency and lower roast shrinkage - have been exported in the past 10 years.

The most noteworthy element in Lilla's growth is how Ciro Lilla, working with Dan Bloch and a few other well chosen agents, has placed Lilla roasters in many areas of the world in a relatively short time. The principle reason is not only quality of the machinery, but the confidence in Lilla that has spread from customer to customer over 10 years; from Gold Star Coffee in Salem, Massachusetts, to Masteroast Coffee in England. Lilla buyers know without fail that they will nevel be let down by the manufacturer; that concern for the proper operation of the equipment is of the utmost importance, and that they are in the hands of a highly principled and honest supplier.
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Title Annotation:Cia. Lilla de Maquinas
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Apr 1, 1992
Previous Article:Coffee Canephora: the 'R' word.
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