Suite Talk Suite Talk: Craig M. James, CEO of Barrie House Coffee Roasters
lmsford’s Barrie House Coffee Roasters, a third-generation family-owned business, recently announced the expansion of its business into a new retail-focused product line and the rebranding of its logo and packaging. In this edition of Suite Talk, Business Journal Senior Enterprise Editor Phil Hall speaks with Craig M. James, the company’s CEO, on the next chapter for this company.
For the benefit of those who aren’t familiar with the company’s history and focus, can you provide a brief overview of the Barrie House Coffee Roasters experience? “Barrie House Coffee Roasters was founded in 1934 by Max Goldstein, who was the grandfather of the three current owners. Max was in the coffee business in New York City and when his son Herbert came back from World War II, he took over the business and renamed it Barrie House after his firstborn, who is our chairman of the board. “I joined Barrie House Coffee about two-and-a-half years ago with the intent of helping to develop the brand out. Historically, the company has been more focused on private label business, helping a lot of other companies with their brands. Now, we’re taking all the expertise that we have with the other brands and we’re applying it toward our own brand. “We offer fair trade organic coffees at value. We want to make sure that everybody gets a nice delicious cup of coffee while
being environmentally responsible and socially responsible. Fair trade sets a price floor to ensure that the farmers and the supply chain have the appropriate pricing associated with the product in order to provide good livelihoods to the farmers who are growing and harvesting the coffee. “We also do quite a bit of work with different farmers around the world, where we have some limited time offers to bring something unique to the marketplace as well. We are working on a coffee farm program in Costa Rica focused on women-owned farms and genetically pure seedlings. We’re purchasing those seedlings, putting them into the farmers’ hands and they’re going to grow and harvest those in about three years’ timeframe. “And then, we’ve committed to go ahead and buy five years of that crop. This draws a lot of focus on sustainability for the industry with the genetically pure seedlings and we’re also highlighting the gender equity concerns and issues within the industry itself.” What makes your coffee stand out from the competition? “We source only high-quality beans from around the world. We’ll get samples of the coffee and cup it for flavor and quality. And then, we’ll blend them together to make sure that we got a good distinct, consistent, balanced cup of coffee.” We only buy first-year harvest because anything beyond first year starts to get old and the you can taste the lower quality levels
NOVEMBER 2, 2020
The new product line includes several autumnal seasonal flavors, including pumpkin spice and caramel apple strudel. Are you going to be doing flavored coffees for each season? “Yes, we’re looking at different holidays in different seasons in order to go out and launch unique flavors. For Valentine’s Day, we’re going to have a great chocolate raspberry coffee — stay tuned for that.” You’re going to bring the Barrie House Coffee Roasters brand into retail stores where consumers may not be familiar with your name. What is your retailing strategy going to be? “We’ve been in some of the larger big box retailers in the past, doing private label business, but we feel that our niche market is really more that midlevel kind of corner grocery store. We’re in three of Morton Williams’ locations in downtown Manhattan. It’s good to get into some of the larger retailers, but they tend to focus more on price versus the quality. “Right now, our primary focus is the New York area, our own backyard. We have distributors set up in Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and the Washington, D.C., area. We have a little bit of Barrie House product and some private label product in Canada, and we are looking to expand ourselves into the Canadian market.” Can you foresee the company going into its own retail/café chain like Starbucks? “My interest would be to have a flagship store that we could kind of play in and really understand the consumer side of the business — using it as kind of a laboratory or research aspect, versus going out and getting a full chain like Starbucks. There’s a lot in the café side of that space already and it’s
Craig M. James, CEO of Barrie House Coffee Roasters. Photo courtesy Barrie House Coffee Roasters.
in the cup. We roast the coffee ourselves and have quite a bit of quality checks all along the way in regards to the green coffee.”
Photo courtesy Barrie House Coffee Roasters. a very difficult business to be successful in.” Do you offer any decaf coffees? “We do. We’ve got a nice fair trade organic decaf from Peru. Our decaf manufacturer will take the green coffee beans and apply more carbon dioxide to extract the caffeine from it, so we get a beautiful fair trade organic decaf.” Are there different types of coffees that work better at different times of the day? For example, the coffee for when you get up in the morning and you’re in a terrible mood, compared to the pick-me-up coffee around midday and the calming coffee at day’s end? “The thing about coffee is that it’s very tea-centric, if you will. Everybody has their own personal taste to it. And that’s why we offer different varieties. “I like to start off my mornings with something more robust to kind of wake me up and get me going. And then throughout
the day, I tend to soften it up a bit. Toward the evenings I pretty much more go or like to go with more of a nice midbody like the Arrosto Scuro, which is our Italian rose, or something a little bit more on the foodie side. I used to be a chef many years ago — I’m a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America up the Hudson River, so I like to pair my coffees with the different types of desserts and things like that.” So, different coffees go with different desserts, whether it’s pastry or ice cream or fruit? “Absolutely. It is very similar to wines with different flavor profiles based on where the wine is grown. Coffee has a very similar experience to it. There’s a lot of commonalities between the two. A coffee from Guatemala has a nice medium textural feel that is kind of heavy on the mouth and not so fruity, but an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe is very lemony, peppery, light acidic, and so those appeal differently with dessert.”