City govt. brewing out-of-state java
Locally owned Paramount Coffee losing out to New England roaster
Gourmet Coffee, a locally owned roaster and distributor with its
headquarters on Larch Street in downtown Lansing, has been replaced
as the city governments main provider by a Massachusetts company.
A city official says Bostons Best tastes better and is less
expensive. Above, some of Paramounts 200 blends at the Trowbridge
Plaza Shop-Rite in East Lansing.
Gourmet Coffee says in its publicity that its philosophy is simple:
We dont just supply our customers with coffee. We establish lifetime
Apparently, the City of Lansing has decided an open relationship is
better when it comes to coffee.
Three years ago, the city purchased $10,730.11 worth of coffee from
Paramount, the locally owned coffee roaster on Larch Street across from
Oldsmobile Park in downtown Lansing. Two years ago, it bought even more:
But in the fiscal year that just ended on June 30, the city bought just
$3,500 worth of coffee from Paramount.
Meanwhile, two years ago the city began flirting with an out-of-state
brand called Bostons Best. It bought nearly $1,700 of the blend
from an out-of-state company, Interstate Gourmet Coffee Roasters, in
South Easton, Mass.
And last year, the romance turned even more serious: The city purchased
nearly $7,000 worth of Bostons Best.
And that has left a bitter taste in the mouth of local coffee house
king Bob Fish, co-founder of Beaners, which thinks enough of Paramounts
product to use it exclusively since 1998.
I heard the mayor say
We need to attract local businesses.
Whats the matter with the ones we have? Fish said.
Nothing, says a Purchasing Department official, if all things are equal.
But the official, senior buyer Stephanie Boggs, says Lansings
only locally roasted coffee doesnt measure up.
One main reason for favoring Bostons Best is the taste,
Boggs said. The other was the price. Boggs said the city
tested beans from different coffee vendors and based its decision on
service recommendations by other users and on pricing.
If things had been equal in Boggs estimation, Paramount presumably
would have continued to be the citys top choice. A city ordinance
requires the nod to go to a local vendor in such situations.
Harold Leeman doesnt know which coffee tastes better because he
is not a coffee drinker. But he does not find the citys decision
palatable. We should do everything we can to purchase locally,
Leeman said. It is sending the wrong message when were buying
our coffee outside of state. Leeman said local companies should
inform the Council when they are passed over so Council can seek an
explanation from the administration. Hopefully that will happen.
Fish said the city had an obligation to consider using a
company that sits right across from its own ball park. Even if
Paramount was charging them $10 a pound, and the other company 50 cents
which wasnt happening, it probably was missed by a hair
it is a business that pays a hundred employees taxes.
Besides income tax, Paramount pays close to $42,000 in city property
Fish said the purchase made at Bostons Best probably translates
into an annual 2,785 pounds of beans, assuming $2.50 per pound. Boggs
said its payment system did not record quantity for purchases
of this nature.
Beaners purchases about 150,000 pounds and 19 different beans
a year from Paramount, Fish said. We used to use roasters from
the West Coast and then from Wisconsin. But we went to Paramount, because
they could provide a better product and better price. He called
Paramount, which has been in business since 1935, the premium company
for coffee in the Midwest. He also said its service department is exemplary.
Ive probably been to 50 roasters in my lifetime. The service
departments are usually the size of somebodys garage. Theirs is
the size of a house.
Fish guessed that the city got trapped by an upfront cheap offer. Thats
not uncommon in our industry. But then theyll get you in other
areas like delivery or service. The city might find out later
that there are additional charges, he said.
Boggs said that shipping is free. Moreover, Whenever we need service
on our machines they send somebody, she said.
Fish is dubious. From a practical perspective, it cant be.
They cant get the coffee cheaper from Massachusetts to here than
you can get it across the road. Whenever a coffee machine breaks,
they would have to send a technician about 900 miles, or employ expensive
third parties, whereas Paramount has its service department right
in the back yard.
Some city employees rebel against Bostons Best. Lt. Judy Horning
at the Police Departments North Precinct thinks it just
tastes worse than Paramount. Also Horning doesnt support
the citys favoring an out-of-state company. She believes employing
local businesses will return tax dollars to the community.
However, she feels theres no need to emulate the Tea Party by
throwing Bostons Best into Lake Lansing. The precinct, she said,
is about to run out of the Massachusetts brand. After those last
cups of java are drunk, she added, the North Precinct is switching back