VOL. 110 | NO. 160 | Monday, August 19, 1996
lj 10/5 cates
Specialty coffee is becoming increasingly popular, industry expects to reach $5 billion by 2000
By LAURIE JOHNSON
The Daily News
Some people like it steaming hot, even on a muggy August afternoon.
Others like it poured over ice or whipped into a frothy, milkshake-like concoction.
No matter how its prepared or served, coffee has emerged as an all-season, any-weather beverage of choice for a growing number of aficionados, which, for coffee shop owners happy to provide the fix, also has translated into strong year-round sales.
"People who really drink coffee drink it all year long," said Robert Nelson, president of the National Coffee Association. "And its an industry that, overall, is experiencing rapid growth through the 1990s."
While the NCA reports that currently 81.5 percent of all coffee consumed by the American public is purchased in grocery stores to be prepared at home, a study by the Specialty Coffee Association determined that coffee shops were the fastest-growing specialty coffee distribution channel.
According to the SCAA, the number of retail specialty coffee outlets, including coffee cafes, espresso bars and espresso carts, is expected to reach 10,000 by 1999.
With coffee cafes currently averaging $300,000 per year in sales, espresso bars $150,000, and espresso carts $75,000, total retail sales are expected to reach $1.5 billion annually by the end of the decade.
By 1999, specialty coffee sales for home consumption are projected to reach $3 billion, SCAA data said. Combined with the anticipated $1.5 billion in food service, including coffee shop retail sales, the industry is expected to become a $5 billion business by the turn of the century.
Like most trends in the United States, coffee shops first gained popularity on both the east and west coasts in the early 1990s but have slowly but surely caught on through the countrys central and southern regions as the decade has progressed.
"Were definitely seeing coffee become more and more popular here," said Jody Townley, owner of The Fine Grind, a specialty coffee shop with two locations in Memphis, one in the Oak Court Mall and one in the Hickory Ridge Commons shopping center. "Its taken a while to work its way here to the Mid-South, but thats generally going to be true whether youre talking about fashion, food or coffee."
The coffee shop scene in Memphis now appears to be perking along quite nicely, with 16 establishments or specialty coffee retail services listed under "Coffee and Tea" in the yellow pages section of the Memphis Telephone Directory.
Several coffee bars have opened in recent years, including Java Cabana, The Find Grind, Otherlands Coffee Bar, Espresso Etc. and The Edge. The newest addition to the Memphis coffee shop market is the Barnes & Noble Cafe, which opened about a month ago in the Bookstar on Poplar Avenue.
While Midtown, with its more bohemian, close-knit community atmosphere, has been the traditional Memphis coffee shop locale of choice, many coffee emporiums are popping up in the areas along the outer reaches of Memphis, as well.
DeSoto Countys first coffee shop, Common Ground, a combination book store/coffee shop, opened in Southaven last October.
"Its such a growing area, and theres just no competition," said co-owner Sandra Norman.
Regardless of the location, coffee shop owners throughout the city are reporting yearly increases in sales, even through the warm summer months.
Townley, who opened her first Fine Grind location in Oak Court eight years ago, said here sales have increased "anywhere from 10 to 40 percent" each year.
Karen Lebovitz, owner of Otherlands Coffee Bar on Cooper Avenue, reports that her revenues have increased by 500 percent over last year.
"Were a neighborhood joint, so weve had to work hard to get people used to stopping by because were not part of a shopping center where people are already headed. Were had to establish ourselves as a destination business," she said.
"Business has been coming along just fine this summer," said Mitzi Hollowell, co-owner of Espresso Etc., on Stage Road in Bartlett, who reports her shops revenues have doubled each year since opening three years ago.
Coffee shop owners said one of the keys to strong summer sales has been to offer a variety of cool, coffee-based drinks.
"Weve been selling a lot of iced coffee and frozen cappuccino, although many of the die-hard coffee drinkers are still drinking theirs hot, no matter what the temperature," Hollowell said.
Popular chilled beverages at The Fine Grind include iced coffee or cafe sorbeto, which is a coffee/chocolate milkshake and a drink called the Ice Cap, which is a whipped and chilled combination of espresso, flavored syrup and low fat milk, Townley said.
"To get away from the problem of people not drinking hot drinks in the summer, weve been offering a variety of sodas and ginger ales, along with fresh squeezed orange juice," Lebovitz.
Tommy Foster, owner of Java Cabana on Young Avenue, has found a very unique avenue for drumming up summer business.
In addition to offering Italian ices, iced coffees, frappacinos and ice cream desserts, Foster, as "Reverend Tommy" officiates at weddings in the coffee shops "Viva Memphis Wedding Chapel."
He also sells Memphis souvenirs such as postcards at the shop, which he calls "a bohemian coffee house with a lot of fun stuff on the side," and has joined the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, printing up his own advertising brochures. Foster said Java Cabanas sales have generally increased by 25 percent since its opening four years ago.
"I deal with a lot of tourists, so the summer is just great for me," Foster said. "If anything, my slowest month is in January, because people just arent getting out."