It was 1979 and I was working at Saks Fifth Avenue. I had already decided that working corporate wasn’t for me. I used to live in a walk up on East 66th street and there was a tiny coffee and spice store called The Coffee Grinder on the street floor. To me, this looked like a business I could learn and handle. I started doing my homework on what it would take to open my own store.
What I learned was that the Coffee Grinder, like almost all the other real coffee stores in the city, bought their coffee roasted by a local wholesale roaster. I learned who bought their coffee from what roaster. Several stores bought from the same roaster so their coffees were the same. Only the location of the store was different. Frequently the price was as well.
There were also a good number of gourmet markets, as well as corner deli’s, that were starting to sell coffee beans. They, of course, also bought from these same roasters.
This was a big problem. How was I going to be able to differentiate myself from all these other stores? Well, I could not think of a solution, so I kept working at Saks for another 5 years while looking at other businesses to go into. It was a long a varied list including but not limited to dental supplies and kids’ shoes!
I quit Saks and started business school to continue my search for a business and maybe learn something too. While doing a marketing project that was coffee related, I saw an ad for an in-store coffee roaster. I didn’t jump 5 feet off the ground and go “boing”, but pretty close. This was how my coffee would be different than everyone else’s! It was more than a year getting Oren’s Daily Roast up and operating on February 12, 1986.
So, the decision to roast my own coffee was the key for me to be able to start a business with a product that was uniquely my own. I soon learned that by buying my green coffee from the country’s premier broker of specialty coffee (Erna Knutsen and deserving of an article on her own—the only woman coffee broker at the time) and paying for freight from the West Coast, roasting every day in a very special roaster, my coffee was not only different than the others. It was remarkably better!
Thirty-seven years later and we are still finding and roasting the best coffees in our unique roaster and getting it to you fresh roasted. Thanks to all of you!