“Boston just sounded like a classy word to Don,” Sally Dean remembered of Boston Stoker’s founding. “It was either that or Argyle or something similar, but driving back to the farm in Ludlow Falls, he’d pass by Boston’s Wine Cellar all of the time. The name just kind of stuck.”
Only a month and a half after deciding to start their pipe and tobacco shop, Don and Sally Dean opened the first Boston Stoker in Englewood, Ohio in 1973, followed shortly by a second shop in Fairborn, Ohio in 1975. Located north of Dayton, the close proximity to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base meant that a large portion of Boston Stoker’s early clientele were quick drop-ins from the officers. Wanting to keep customers in the shop longer, the Deans started offering them free, freshly brewed coffee.
Closing and opening a new third location in the early 80s, as the tobacco business grew for Boston Stoker, so did the demand for coffee. With the peanut roaster unable to keep up, in 1983 Don bought a Probat coffee roaster able to roast 5 kilos at a time. Purposefully installing it to be visible to customers at the Fairborn facility, this helped create a greater appreciation for what Boston Stoker was doing by roasting their own coffee.
“When we started selling whole bean coffee people thought they were jars of raisins on the wall,” Henry said. “Before then they’d only ever seen coffee come as powder from out of a can.”
Throughout the 1990s interest and demand for quality coffee and tobacco exploded. Large chains and independent coffee houses opened nationwide and cigar suppliers were unable to even keep shelves stocked. Boston Stoker’s espresso machine that at first sat unattached and dormant quickly became a fixture in people’s morning routine. Over the decade, six new locations were opened as well as a dedicated office and roasting facility in Vandalia, Ohio.
“By the mid-nineties, Fairborn just wasn’t able to keep up with the new demand for roasting,” Henry said. “Seeing I-70 and I-75 as a great crossroads for expanded distribution, the Vandalia location worked well. There really wasn’t anything to the building at first. We would drive up in the 86 Camaro to mow the grass and play hockey inside the building.”
The turn of the century saw the beginning of the transition from second to third wave coffee. This meant pairing down the choices of drinks and their additives for a more refined curation of coffees. For Boston Stoker, it also meant the continuation and expansion on the direct trade relationships started in the mid-eighties when Don Dean bought his first bag of La Minita beans from Costa Rican farmer, Bill Mcalpin.
“Second wave coffee started seeing importers traveling to the farms they got their beans from, bringing back samples of new varieties and neighboring farms,” Henry said. “Third wave was more about roasters traveling themselves, and I was lucky enough to experience that firsthand in 2005.”
As third wave coffee fully made it’s way in from the coasts, Boston Stoker made it’s own transition as Henry Dean officially took over as CEO in 2015, joined by his sister Laura Dean as CFO. The new generation of Deans meant the full realization of third wave coffee for the company.
“We had been doing direct trade for a number of years, but didn’t want to really market it until our community efforts were in place for those farmers,” Henry said. “We’d previously been working with charities, but some had folded and the more we looked at it the more we realized that we could directly provide the assistance needed in these communities.”