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Visiting Clients and Prospects: The Bay Area and Coffee

Kelle Vandenberg

By Mark V. Howley, CEO/President

The specialty coffee and pet food markets are filled with passion and creative entrepreneurial activity. I love visiting clients, and prospects, and I always enjoy taking some time to visit with them and see new companies. It excites me! My recent trips included calls to the San Francisco/Sacramento area.

Northern California is busy, competitive, and there are plenty of smart/creative folks in the specialty industries. It’s a beehive of activity and energy. My visits to San Francisco/Oakland included stops at established businesses, and a handful of new or niche companies with cool new ideas. The San Francisco /Oakland metro area has so many great roasters it would be impossible to list or visit all of them in a 2-3 day window. Two examples include Mountanos Brothers and Peerless Coffee,  both with a deep history and strong brand. It’s educational to listen to them talk about their perspective on coffee. The Vukasin family started Peerless in 1924 (wow!) and still has an intense commitment to great coffee and the customers.  They are a group of smart, humble and committed people who know the coffee game. As a business owner myself, it’s impressive to think about all the trends and cultural changes they endured.

Mountanos also has a deep history. Stratis Mountanos and his brother Richard left their home in Greece and made a new life in America, selling roasted coffee and chestnuts from a mule-drawn cart. Richard and Stratis instilled their love of coffee and their strong work ethic in their children. Stratis’ son Michael, learned the art of coffee roasting at his father’s knee, and passed his knowledge down to his son Milt, who kept the family business thriving with the help and support of his wife, Helen. Milt and Helen’s son Michael (named after his grandfather) represents the fourth generation of coffee roasters in the Mountanos family and is the President of Mountanos Brothers Coffee Company. That’s a lot of coffee knowledge in a small area!

The Bay Area is also loaded with specialty coffee and foods activity; like Ritual Coffee, Equator Estates Coffee and Teas, Blue Bottle, Sightglass etc. The commitment to great coffee mixed with the “café experience” is progressive and fun to watch.  It’s no surprise the Bay Area, known for awesome new products and technologies, is pushing the limit in specialty coffee. 

In my opinion, it’s worth a trip just to see the new ideas and concepts in action.