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 Company is one of the many special long time local institutions operating in Jacksonville's urban core that gives the area it's unique atmosphere and cultural vibe. While Metro Jacksonville was invited to tour their Fairfield roasting plant by Ben Johnson, the company's Jacksonville history dates back to 1935 when Johnson's grandfather moved to Jacksonville from Brandon, Florida.
Fred Martin. Image courtesy of Martin Coffee Company.
Arriving in Jacksonville at the age of 19, Fred Martin's first job in town was as a coffee salesman for the Bingham Coffee Company. After 22 years with Bingham, Martin had become a part owner in Bingham when it was sold in 1957. Still believing there was a niche for the product, Fred and Amy Martin purchased Bartley's Coffee Company that same year, to open the Martin Coffee Company inside of a downtown Jacksonville warehouse on East Bay Street. At the time, East Bay Street was a waterfront industrial district. Here, specialty coffee was roasted in a two story plant for the company's clients, including various restaurants and hotels throughout the region. Amazingly today, the warehouse building where Martin Coffee began operation in 1957 still stands today. Now surrounded by a cluster of bars, the space's first floor lives on as the On Point Ink Tattoo Gallery at 327 East Bay Street.
A Martin Coffee delivery van parked in front of the new Duval County Courthouse in 1958. Image courtesy of Martin Coffee Company.
While on tour, Johnson provided us with an interesting urban tale, regarding his grandfather's old Bay Street coffee roasting plant and the only mid-block pedestrian crossing in downtown Jacksonville. A year after Martin's business went into operation on East Bay Street, the Duval County Courthouse opened across the street in 1958. Soon, county judges were crossing the street midblock to get their daily cup of joe from Martin. One day, a judge was almost struck by a passing vehicle while trying to cross the street. In a short period of time, a mid-block crossing was installed from the front door of the courthouse to Martin Coffee.