So we get to the plant in Norfolk and the plant has to be 250 years old! We enter the front door and introduce ourselves to a receptionist, a very nice older lady, with that great southern accent. Now it is June and anyone that has ever been down in that part of the country, it is Africa hot and so humid that you feel like you are in a steam room, literally. The receptionist explains that the air conditioning isn't working too well today, but I had already kind of figured that out. It was around 11 am and it was already 94 degrees, yuck.
The company was owned by two brother's, a third generation family business, not unlike our company. Carl and Tommy Johnson are the brother's, Carl is the CEO and Tommy is the President. Carl came out within minutes to greet us and you could instantly tell that he was the businessman and financial expert of the 2. He was a very gracious southern gentleman that brought us into his office, thanked us for coming down and thanked us for the business we were giving them. After about a brief fifteen minute conversation he excused himself, said he had some prior appointments he had to keep, but he was going to leave us in the more than capable hands of his brother Tommy. Tommy would be showing us around the plant and would gladly answer any questions or concerns we had. Fair enough. He goes to retrieve Tommy, and he is gone for quite awhile. He shows back up looking a little flustered and explained he had to track his brother down and sorry for the delay. He leads us down a hallway and shows us into Tommy office, and then introduces us and abruptly leaves. We sit down, and Tommy is clearly absolutely dead drunk! It's 11:30 in the morning and he can barely speak. We were horrified.
Needless to say, he explained he wasn't feeling well so the plant manager would have to do the tour. I was relieved, I had visions of him getting pummeled by a pallet jack or falling down stairs and killing himself. Just crazy. Well the plant was a complete nightmare, our plant was like the Taj Mahal compared to this setup. Their was creaky wooden floors, stairwells with rotten wood and the equipment was falling apart. Most manufacturing plants use gravity feed systems to produce the coffee. So what happens is, you have these bucket elevator's, which are exactly that, rubber band conveyor's, that capture the coffee and move it upward to feed whatever machine you would be using. Well these elevator's weren't encased, so there was beans falling off them two stories down, and there was two guys down the bottom, shoveling these now broken beans into a bin and refeeding the conveyor. Real high tech right? Our elevator's which we had several, were encased and had a rubber lined catcher, so if the been did fall out of the buckets they wouldn't break. I never saw anything like it since. The coffee roasting area was a mess, and the roaster's themselves while functioning were really old which, isn't the worst thing, but they had no controls on them! You know we had controls on our roaster's to measure the temperature, roast time's and quench amounts. We analyzed them everyday to make sure the coffee
met a predetermined specification. They had none of that, you we would roast for instance 500 lbs of breakfast blend at 418 degrees for 17 minutes and then you would get out a pretty consistent roast of say 435 lbs of coffee. You lose weight during the roasting process, which is termed shrink. Anyway, we ran out of there pretty much, knowing we better put a plan together to do our own flavored coffee in a hurry. I started working on it, on the plane home, this was a major problem! That place could burn down tomorrow or worse, who knew? You would be surprised though, that was the business back in the 90s! That's it for today. Thanks for following this again, and sign up will ya? Joe