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.”
Don had only years before been just as new to coffee as many of his customers. Having no real education on roasting, most of what he learned was self-taught through calling experts from larger cities for advice. These phone calls and Don’s dedication to a quality product lead to Boston Stoker being invited to a meeting in 1986 for what would became the the Specialty Coffee Association of America. As one of only 80 charter members, this group now is a global association that boasts tens of thousands of members.
Reaching into the mid-80s, coffee continued becoming more and more a part of Boston Stoker’s business and a larger roaster was soon needed. The Gothot roaster could handle 55 pounds and replaced the Probat roaster in the Fairborn store. Even with the increased quantity, quality remained a focus and beans were kept in the store for no longer than two weeks to preserve freshness.
Other changes came with the coffee industry in the 1980s. With additional roasting, flavoring also become a part of Boston Stoker’s coffee offerings. Don also purchased one of the area’s first espresso machines for the newly opened Centerville shop.
“At first, it just sat there without being hooked up, maybe for first three years,” Henry said. “Once it was running it was like if he could do $10 a day it was a successful day. Back then we were just doing espresso, not really any specialty drinks. People just didn’t know about it yet.”
Another way Boston Stoker proved to be ahead of industry trends was by starting to develop direct relationships with the farmers who provided their beans. In 1986 Costa Rican farmer, Bill Mcalpin stopped by Boston Stoker on a nationwide tour, selling his La Minita coffee bag by bag from out of a UHaul truck. Don bought a bag that started the direct trade relationship where we now carry three varieties of Bill’s coffee.
Opening a fourth shop before the end of the decade, Boston Stoker remained a family run business. As Don managed the products of coffee and tobacco for the shops, his retired parents would help with day-to-day operations, and his wife Sally ran accounting, developed new accounts and raised the couple’s young family.