Coffee PER expands to larger facility in Capital |

Coffee PER expands to larger facility in Capital

Anne Knowles

Bill Kennedy was busy last week, settling into Coffee PER Inc.’s new Carson City digs, when three auditors from South Korea arrived. They were camping out for three days to inspect the company’s manufacturing process, a routine audit required to sell American-made coffee roasters in the country.

The interruption, costly in terms of both time and money, wasn’t entirely unwelcome.

“Seoul is like Seattle on steroids,” says Kennedy, owner. “We get calls from people wanting to distribute our product there every week.”

That’s why the coffee roaster maker outgrew its long-time, 5,000-square-foot plant in Fallon and last month moved into a 15,000-square-foot facility in Carson City, and plans to soon add another welder and a final assembly pro to its staff of nine employees.

The company is thriving, says Kennedy, after being on life support five years ago, soon after he bought the business from its retiring owner, Sherman Dodd. Dodd, who launched the company in California in 1992 and moved it to Fallon the next year, built a quality product that endures, says Kennedy. When Kennedy bought the company in 2008, he added his retail marketing experience, which has helped revive sales.

“In our industry, if you don’t grow you get buried,” says Kennedy.

Coffee PER sells a line of seven roasters designed for everyone from the amateur coffee connoisseur to wholesalers selling coffee to restaurants and grocers. The two low-end models — a 1-pound roaster and a 6-pound model — are the most popular.

“We can’t build them fast enough,” says Kennedy.

The high-end model, a 75-pound roaster, fills a small room and is built to order. The company also performs repairs and is keeping three repair workers in a Fallon location for now.

Like classic cars, a good coffee roaster can last forever and appreciate in value, says Kennedy.

“People who bought them 10 years ago can sell them for more than they paid for them,” he says.

Or they can trade them in. The Roasting House, a Virginia City coffee house, is swapping its existing Coffee PER roaster for a 25-pound machine.

“It will be the first roaster out of this factory,” says Kennedy.

The company’s other local customers include The Hub Coffee Co. in Reno, San Rafael Coffee Co. in Carson City and Gardnerville’s Blind Dog Coffee, all coffee houses that roast their own beans, usually in full view of customers waiting for a cup.

The sturdy machines, emblazoned with a gold plate displaying the name, The San Franciscan Roaster, look like an antique, something from Virginia City’s gold rush heyday.

“Roasters are high-end eye candy for coffee houses,” says Kennedy.