In Lansing, This Coffee Shop Brews Over 75 Years of Business

By Jane Whitttington on March 25th, 2015 / Comments

Over 83 percent of adults in the US drink coffee. At an average of three cups per person per day, that translates to 587 million cups a day in this country alone. Most of us wouldn’t dream of starting the day without that first cup of coffee, and we continue to fuel ourselves throughout the day with visits to the office coffee pot or the coffee shop down the street.

In Lansing, Paramount Coffee has been passionate about good coffee since 1935 when three young men who had been working for a coffee company in Chicago decided to start their own company in Lansing. Their first sale was on August 7, 1935: ten pounds of coffee at 24 cents a pound to a local cafeteria. The company grew, but hit a bump in the road during WW II when coffee it became risky to import from other countries and both gasoline (for their delivery trucks) and coffee purchases were cut by 50 percent by order of the government.

However, the company cleared that hurdle, and, by 1950, they were roasting their own beans and their reputation grew. The 70’s and 80’s saw more changes as the country experienced the rise of fast food, growth in the suburbs, an energy crisis and a new interest in specialty coffees. Paramount  began producing specialty coffees and doing more and more of their own sourcing and roasting.

From One Owner, to Employee Owned

By the year 2000, business was strong and growing. It was time for a big change—not in the way they made coffee but in the way they were managed. They officially became an ESOP, an employee owned business when the family of one of the founders sold the company to the employees. As an independent coffee company, they have grown considerably and, even in difficult economic times, have weathered the storms and come through even stronger.

The current Chairman and CEO of the company is Angelo Oricchio, who came to the firm in 1995 after meeting the owners while they were on a buying trip to his native Brazil. Oricchio, though an engineer by training, grew up in coffee growing country, and his grandfather owned a coffee plantation. He moved to Lansing and started at Paramount in 1990 and became CEO in 2005. He’s helped the company open a new location.

“We have recently opened a second facility to join the one in downtown Lansing where we do our coffee processing,” said Oricchio. “Our West Grand River facility houses our shipping and receiving departments and our administrative offices. In all, we have about 85 employees.”

He continues, “We offer a wide variety of coffee available both to individual consumers and to restaurants, coffee shops and other entities that buy in bulk. Individuals can buy our coffee online, but, by far, the largest part of our business is wholesale.”

One of the company’s biggest customers is Biggby, another Lansing-based business, which has grown from its original Lansing store to well over 200 locations.

Paramount sources coffee from all over the world. They often work directly with coffee growers. For instance, they buy coffee direct from farmers in Rwanda. Michigan State University has gone into Rwanda to help revitalize the coffee industry after devastating civil wars.

Paramount has received SQL certification from the Safe Quality Food Institute, assurance that there is a focus on food safety and the highest quality standards for handling, preparation and processing. In addition, they are certified by the Rainforest Alliance which ensures and promotes the growth and protection of the rainforests.  They have also received certification by UTZ  (a word which means “good” in the Mayan language). UTZ certifies that the coffee purchased by Paramount adheres to a required code of conduct including standards for record-keeping, protection of labor rights and access to health care and education for employees and their families.

For Paramount, it isn’t just about good coffee, it’s also about doing good. For more information about the company and to shop for online products, go to www.paramountcoffee.com

About the Author

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Grand Rapids. A Michigan native and Michigan State University grad, she enjoys reading, travel, politics and volunteering.