May 5 2009 12:00 AM



Premium blend

Paramount Coffee offers local roasts with global perspective
Sixth in an seven-part series on businesses that are members of Capital Area Local First. For membership information, see www.capitalarealocalfirst.com.

It’s hard not to get a caffeine contact buzz inside the Paramount Coffee roasting plant in Lansing, where the rich smell of freshly roasted beans permeates the air. In the small waiting room at the front of the factory, there is a small, shrine-like display for the beloved coffee bean and two commercial pots filled with special blends for visitors to sample.

Although coffee can no longer be purchased directly from the company headquarters at 130 N. Larch St., Lansing, the Styrofoam cups of freshbrewed still do their job as a flavor flirt, making visitors pine for more of the smooth, rich taste after they leave the plant.

Paramount is an employee-owned business, which means the workers are the sole stockholders in the company. Angelo Oricchio, Paramount’s CEO, said this has a major impact on the employees and their incentive to do their best work. “We directly get to enjoy the fruits of our labor amongst ourselves,” Oricchio said. “If the company does bad, all of the employees suffer, whereas if the company does well, we all reap the benefits from our work.” Paramount has been a local roasting plant since 1935. The company buys green (or unroasted) coffees from all over the world in burlap bags containing 132 to 154 pounds of beans.

Paramount’s warehouse, which can store hundreds of bags of coffee, smells earthy and bitter, a stark contrast to how the beans will smell once roasted.

Once an employee pours the green coffee beans into a machine that will transport them to a large roaster, computers control their every movement, from how long they stay in the roaster (12 minutes) to transporting the roasted beans to be packaged or to the grinder.

Paramount’s coffee is available at 20 locations in the greater Lansing area, including Goodrich Shop-Rite and Horrock’s Farm Market, as well as local restaurants, coffee shops, convenience stores and online.

Oricchio said the company is proud to help local business in the state by offering lower delivery prices. “Since we are located in Michigan, delivery is only a short distance instead of shipping in a product from across the nation,” he said.

Shorter trips also make for lower fuel emissions, which Oricchio said is also important to Paramount’s environmentally friendly mission. Oricchio said the company only uses boxes made from 100 percent recycled material to transport its product, and it recycles everything from office paper to magazines and newspapers used at the plant. To further reduce waste, Paramount offers full repairs on coffee machines for local restaurants and businesses. A service team stationed at the plant works on repairs so coffee machines can be fixed and reused instead of thrown away.

Paramount’s latest effort to “go green” will start this summer, when the company’s newsletter and postcards will be available through the Business Connection page on its Web site instead of mailed.

While Paramount has a strong commitment to local business, the company also keeps a global perspective. Partnering with Michigan State University and its work in Rwanda, Paramount is working to support coffee growers in the war-torn African nation.

Through the Partnership to Enhance Agriculture in Rwanda through Linkage, Paramount is giving back part of the profit it makes on Rwandan coffees. Oricchio said Paramount is very passionate about Fair Trade practices. “For every pound of Fair Trade coffee sold from Paramount Coffee, the company gives $1 back to the farmers in Rwanda to use toward the various things needed on farms,” Oricchio said.

Paramount Coffee

130 N. Larch St., Lansing (517) 372-5500 www.paramountcoffee.com