(10/31/12) - It's a 50,000 square foot factory in Flushing, pumping out an endless supply of beans - coffee beans.
"This will do 2,000 pounds an hour, 500 pounds a roast, and we'll do about 1.5 million pounds this year," said Kevin Shaw, Coffee Beanery Executive VP.
We're not just talking about any coffee - it's Coffee Beanery coffee, a brand of Joe created by JoAnne and Julius Shaw in 1976. It helped launch a worldwide premium coffee craze.
"I think we're kind of the best kept secret in Flint, Michigan or Flushing, or Michigan in particular, because we were the very first specialty coffee roaster, retailer, franchiser, creator of all these wonderful coffee products, and a lot of people still don't know we're Michigan based," said JoAnne Shaw, Coffee Beanery president and CEO.
The Beanery's world headquarters sits in a rather non-descript warehouse, off Pierson Road.
"Except for the occasional dark roast, where the smoke comes billowing out of the top of the building and makes the entire neighborhood smell good, nobody really knows we're here, and when they do find out, it's always a nice surprise," Kevin said.
With hundreds upon hundreds of coffee brands crowding the marketplace, Kevin says the secret to Coffee Beanery's long-term success is simple.
"You've got to know is it the right color or isn't it? That isn't a science. It's all visual and art," he said.
At it's peak, the Coffee Beanery had more than 200 stores on street corners and in malls across the US. Due to the economy, that number has been cut in half.
"We had to get a little bit smarter. We focus on our e-commerce, getting our product to customers directly without retail locations," Kevin said.
At the same time, business has expanded within grocery stores and gas stations, not to mention across the globe. Twenty Coffee Bean franchises can currently be found overseas.
"My brother-in-law is serving in Afghanistan, and there's a Coffee Beanery there. He sent me his phone pics, while he was standing in front of the Coffee Beanery in Afghanistan on the military base. I couldn't be more proud. That is so cool," Kevin said.
And the Beanery brand has gone Hollywood, with product placement in TV shows and in movies.
"You're sitting in a movie, and then, oh, wow. That's our cup! That makes you feel good because of the exposure. If you had said 40 years ago that that would happen, I would have said you're crazy," said Julius Shaw, Coffee Beanery chairman.
That new wave thinking continues to generate new revenue. Right now, the headquarters in Flushing employs 40 people, and while other companies automate, the Shaws have resisted that cost-cutting temptation.
"We would rather put people to work. There's equipment that can pull boxes and tape it, but we'd rather have another person and bring in a human being to do the work and put groceries on kitchen counters. It just seems better to us," Kevin said.
And while coffee production is only about half of what it once was, the Coffee Beanery believes it's on the right track to survive and thrive for years to come.
"We're so optimistic about our future and getting back to the volume we were at during the late '90s and early part of the 2000s. Absolutely," Kevin said.
For more information on the Coffee Beanery, click HERE.
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