Family owned and operated still today, Martin Coffee Company has grown to become one of the largest and oldest independent coffee roasters in the Southeast. Earlier this week, company president, Ben Johnson gave Metro Jacksonville a tour of the local coffee roasting plant founded by his grandfather in 1957.
Martin Coffee on East Bay Street. The storefront served as an office while the vertical roasting and packaging operations were spread out over two floors. Image courtesy of Martin Coffee Company.
By the 1980s, operating a roasting facility on East Bay Street had become difficult. The space was cramped and shipping and receiving items by truck, meant moving them by hand from the street to the back of the building. In 1987, the company relocated to a larger facility at 1633 Marshall Street, near Talleyrand Avenue. Historically, this neighborhood has been known as the community of Fairfield. Originally, a separate city, the City of Fairfield was annexed into Jacksonville in 1887.
Today, 25 years later, the company remains a fixture in the Jacksonville community. The company's website proudly proclaims that over 750 million cups of Martin Coffee have been served since 1957, including daily cups for the last seven governors of Florida. We also discovered there was a Metro Jacksonville connection when Johnson told us his dad, Harold Johnson (second generation roaster), said to tell Stephen Dare hello. Evidently, Stephen's 1990's era Fusion Cafe in Riverside/Avondale's Five Points was a company client.
Allowing us to enjoy a freshly roasted cup of coffee, Johnson, a third generation roaster, mentioned the 12-employee company maintains coffee, tea, beverage equipment and espresso/cappuccino relationships with 400 customers within a two hour drive of Jacksonville. Many are well known local businesses such as The Fox, Matthew's, European Street Cafe and Peterbrooke Chocolatier. One thing at stood out upon our visit was the family atmosphere, working environment and long lasting client relationships that have been formed over the years. For example, St. Augustine's famed Santa Maria Restaurant has been serving Martin Coffee for over fifty years. During Martin's early years, Milligan's Beefy Burgers, Florida's first fast food hamburger drive thru chain, was a loyal client. When owner, Richard Milligan, decided to close the business due to competition from rapidly expanding national chains such as McDonald's, he was hired by Martin Coffee Company and was employed there the rest of his career. In the roasting plant, we were also delighted to meet another employee, Willie Deas, who had been with the company for over 40 years.
Next Page: A Look Inside the Martin Coffee Company's Roasting Plant