Respected French chef Eric Ripert from Le Bernadin, one of the most revered restaurants in Manhattan, developed a new blend of coffee, Stone Street Signature, with Stone Street Coffee, a retailer and packaged goods company.
Ripert had tasted a Stone Street Coffee espresso while dining at Duryea’s Lobster Deck in Montauk and loved it. He contacted its owner Johan Pesenti to see if they could concoct a blend together.
Pesenti, also a Frenchman who now resides in New York City, acquired Stone Street Coffee in 2019 from HPH Hospitality to add to his Coperaco Coffee brand.
A partnership with a globally-known chef can boost sales and heighten one’s brand recognition.
Chef Ripert and Pesenti formed a natural team. Both originate from the South of France, so they speak the same language, in more ways than one.
When Pesenti met with Ripert in his Le Bernadin office, he said his pitch was simple and straightforward. “I’m good at creating a coffee with body and aftertaste,” Pesenti explains.
They developed a medium roast, comparable to a Northern Italian blend, where Pesenti says the best coffee is brewed.
Asked to describe its target audience, he replies, “Anyone that enjoys fine cheese, fine wine and fine gourmet products, especially espresso.”
Starting in January 2020, the coffee is now served at Le Bernadin. It‘s also sold in a variety of ways including Amazon, its website stonestreetcoffee.com, gourmet stores and other retail partners.
It’s an alliance between Ripert and Pesenti. “His face is on the bag and that speaks of the strength of the partnership,” Pesenti noted.
Stone Street Coffee began as a coffee roaster in Gowanus, Brooklyn in 2010. Pesenti said it started there because “Brooklyn was a strategic choice because of the added value it offers to brands.”
By 2020, Stone Street Coffee has turned into a multi-faceted coffee purveyor. It now has three stores—the original on Ninth Avenue in Chelsea with about 1,000 square feet, a flagship café in Harrison, N.J., under the Coperaco name, and a new Stone Street Café opening in West Hollywood under a licensing deal.
Both Coperaco and Stone Street operate as two separate brands, with two distinctive roasters. But both are manufactured at its roasting plant in Gowanus, Brooklyn.
He described Stone Street blends as a “serious coffee for serious New Yorkers that has a true punch.” Coperaco blends are more “dedicated to nature, more farm to table while Stone Street is bolder and darker.”
But Stone Street Coffee is also a major wholesaler, selling to a wide range of clients, including supermarkets, restaurants, small retail shops, cafes, bakers, corporate dining rooms and foodies.
But the pandemic has altered its business model. “Most of our business nowadays is online and supermarkets,” Pesenti explains.
If the consumer plugs in fresh-roasted coffee on Amazon.com, Stone Street ends up as one of the top-listed brands with Starbucks. “It’s like David versus Goliath,” Pesenti says, competing against the global brand.
The pandemic has been a mixed blessing. At the retail stores, business has dipped because so many people are staying home. But it has nabbed new clients via its online portals who buy its packaged coffee and brew it at home.
“Starting in January 2020, we were able to quickly pivot our company to web-based,” says Pesenti.
In fact, Stone Street Coffee sells over a dozen blends and a dozen single origins. Its’ most popular coffees are Brooklyn Roast, Organic Dark Roast and Keen Buckling Espresso.
He also says they’ve considered expanding their retail outlets several times. It’s explored franchising and is always looking for the right strategic partner to extend locations.
When he acquired Stone Street Coffee, it required a large outlay of capital. “We don’t have any private equity money,” he notes. “Most of our money has been invested in manufacturing.”
In fact, he acquired a coffee farm in Nicaragua in 2016, and also has a factory and distribution center in Mexico City. When he says farm to table, he means it literally.
In 2021, it’s bursting with innovative ideas and is looking to launch a new cold brew, pods and k cups. “We’re looking to launch an instant cold brew using a new German technology to serve a younger crowd,” he says.
What has enabled it to survive is “diversification. We have supermarket sales, direct online sales, and a platform on Amazon,” he points out. It lost hundreds of restaurant accounts, but its Amazon business spiked to offset some of those losses.
“The intention is to make Stone Street a new American brand, born in Brooklyn,” Pesenti says proudly.
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