Field Trip

In General, Retail Thoughts on April 4, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Last Wednesday Patricia and I (more on Patricia in my next post) headed out of the city to two very fun meetings. The first was for a demonstration of a high-tech Rational induction oven at Trademark Equipment & Supplies HQ in Ashland, MA.  The second was a visit with the George Howell Coffee Co. at their HQ in Acton, MA.  Let’s start with the GHCC visit…

I. George Howell Coffee Co. is one of the country’s top roasters and distributors of coffees. George Howell, its founder, is the pioneer for the enlightened coffee scene  in the Boston area.  George previously owned the Coffee Connection, which he sold to Starbucks in 1994 when Starbucks was making its move into the Northeast. GHCC doesn’t have too much in common with Starbuck’s nowadays though.  George’s team has focused of late on sourcing some of the best coffee beans direct from farms across the globe, roasting them and making them available to us at high-end grocers, local cafes and restaurants.  I first learned about GHCC when my sis Liza and her partner Marley were doing their due diligence for opening Crema Cafe in Harvard Square.  Now, as CityRetail is talking with GHCC about a possible assignment, I figured it was about time to head to Acton, MA and see where it all goes down.

Patricia and I met our close friend Michael Staub at GHCC and as soon as we got there we jumped right in a with a cupping (“cupping” is coffee lingo for a tasting – see pic above) followed by some sourcing, roasting and brewing talk.  We then saw the roasting in action. The visit was fun and educational and I’m now confident asserting that the GHCC team is as good as it gets.

The coffee that comes from GHCC’s roasters is outstanding and the level of competence and attention to detail is amazing. Being somebody who actively seeks out the best cafes in every city I visit, I’ve experience barista culture at its best and worst. At its worst, it has an elitist edge that looks down upon those who aren’t informed about the best coffees and the best way to drink such coffees.  At it’s best though, it’s about enlightening people by introducing them to new coffees and new ways to drink it – it’s about education and inclusion.  George, Rebecca, Jenny, Janet, Doug and the rest of the GHCC team falls into this later category – they get it and want to share it. It’s now CityRetail’s goal to help them share it too.

II. Prior to GHCC, we started our day out in Ashland, MA with the Trademark Equipment team… (read more) I first got in touch with the Trademark folks last year when I was doing some research on Ventless Hoods. Give a read of prior post “Ventless Hoods” for some background. I’ve been on a steady exploration of kitchen equipment since, all in an effort to gain a better understanding of the food service industry (kitchens specifically) as it relates to difficult urban buildings and properties.

The oven we saw in action, the Rational Self Cooking Center, is very cool. It isn’t cheap but what you can do with the machine is impressive – it spans from roasting to braising to grilling. Further, it’s self cleaning, relatively idiot proof (programmable) and runs best on electric (vs. gas). I know many chefs have an aversion to it but I believe we’ll be seeing a lot more tech innovation in restaurant kitchens in the coming years and Europe is already ahead of the curve.  Plus, when we showed up and saw KC from RealFood Consulting there, I knew we were onto something!

I was really glad we went to this demonstration but I think people were scratching their heads a bit wondering why CityRetail was there.  This is a good sign; a really good sign. It reinforces my belief that CityRetail is innovating and crossing borders in our little world of retail/resto advisory and leasing. It’s my goal to make CityRetail one of a kind and this is the stuff that gives us a huge intellectual edge and will continue to solidify our reputation as being the go to brokers/advisors in the Boston area when you are looking to open a restaurant or bring a restaurant into a building you own.  Plus, striving for this expertise makes for some really fun field trips.

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