Mike Cote's Business Editor's Notebook: Aerosmith drummer rocks the morning brew
THE CEO of Rockin' & Roastin' expects his line of organic coffee from Sumatra, Ethiopia and Guatemala will be popular at the University of New Hampshire now that Durham Marketplace will stock them soon. That follows recent deals with the 18-store grocer Roche Bros. in Massachusetts and the nine-store Dave's Marketplace in Rhode Island.
Not bad for a company that started selling its coffee online only a year ago.
Joey Kramer just might have a hit on his hands.
The Aerosmith drummer has scored a few of those in his career already with more than 100 million albums sold. But the Boston rock legend insists his new business venture is more than just putting his name on a bag of beans. He's the boss.
"I think the biggest hurdle that I'll have is getting the message out there that it's not just another celebrity lending his name to make money. I'm hands-on," Kramer said during a recent interview from his home in Austin, Texas. "I have a great team that I put together, and we're obsessed with bringing quality gourmet coffee to the market for a reasonable retail price."
Rockin' and Roastin' practices the traditional shade-grown method of growing coffee beans, avoiding the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. "It's a more intense procedure, but it's better for the environment," Kramer said.
The Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famer, 63, recently aligned with Comfort Foods in North Andover, Mass., to roast, package and distribute the coffee, which will retail for $7.99 to $8.99 for a 12-ounce bag. The line features two dark roasts from Sumatra and Ethiopia and a dark-medium roast from Guatemala and eventually also will be available in K-Cups.
"There's no reason people should be gouged on price for gourmet coffee. I think most people don't realize they can drink better coffee," Kramer said. "When they deal with the big guys - and I think you know what I mean when I say big guys - they get to a point where they're more concerned with quantity than quality, and they've become too big a conglomerate."
While Kramer is a Texan these days, his company's inroads in New England plays to his roots. Aerosmith got its start playing gigs in New Hampshire in the Sunapee area before moving to Boston and becoming the city's most successful rock export. He considers the Durham Marketplace deal like a homecoming.
"To have it in a store that is on campus is perfect," he said.
Over the next year, Kramer is donating some of the proceeds from his coffee sales to Music Drives Us, a nonprofit organization founded by Massachusetts car dealer Ernie Boch Jr. that supplies grants for music programs.
"High schools all over New England have had their music programs taken away because of a lack of funding," Kramer said.
The drummer was enjoying a short break back home from an Aerosmith tour supporting the "Music from Another Dimension!" album that included stops in Singapore, New Zealand, Australia and Thailand. The next leg includes Japan and South America.
Those regions could be potential markets for Rockin' and Roastin,' said Kramer's business partner, Frank Cimler, a Boston-based attorney who has long worked with rock stars.
"You're going to find this coffee throughout the country and elsewhere," Cimler said. "One of the objectives is to make sure that the coffee winds up overseas in the international market. The Aerosmith brand and Joey's brand are everywhere."
By the end of the month, Rockin' & Roastin' could be in as may as 100 retail outlets, Cimler said. The company already has talks scheduled to take the brand outside New England.
While Cimler has worked with celebrities on other business ventures, he said this one is unusual in that it sprung out of Kramer's particular passion.
"Joey is a fanatic about coffee and adamant about the quality of what he is associated with," he said. "He's very painstaking about the steps he takes to make sure all the quality is equal or better than anything that is out there on the market."
When Kramer gets back and the band takes another breather, he'll focus on his coffee business.
"It's something that I wanted to do for awhile, but basically I just didn't have the time because all my time is taken up by my career," he said. "Now we're taking some time off. I want to throw myself into this and do it the right way.
"Usually when you have a passion for something and you start doing it, it comes out well," he said.
Kramer could say the same about his work with Aerosmith. While the latest album racked up only modest sales compared to Aerosmith's mega-platinum heyday, global demand for its live shows have remained as strong as a cup of joe made from dark roasted beans imported from an exotic locale.
"There's still a lot of juice left. We can't go at it as hard as we used to, but there's certainly no reason to think about stopping," Kramer said.
Mike Cote is business editor at the Union Leader. Contact him at 668-4321, ext. 324 or firstname.lastname@example.org.