Approaching Thanksgiving Coffee’s Building from the parking lot, it’s hard to tell how much has time has passed since the devastating fire which burned down a significant part of the building including the business offices and the production floor. Three weeks later, things are still a little down at Company headquarters, but not out – of work, that is.
Fire affected areas are completely fenced and off limits to everyone, including the employees whose computers and files may (or may not) remain inside. Until the investigation is officially finalized, everything beyond the fence is at a standstill.
Inside the warehouse is a different scene entirely. Daily production operations have relocated to the warehouse adjacent to the main building, where coffee is typically stored. In the “executive suite” – a loft made of plywood and bare beams, I interview Directory of Business Development Jenais Zarlin about the post-fire status of the company. Atop the makeshift desk, built of boards atop milk crates, sits President Ben Corey-Moran’s computer; a perfect metaphor for how things seem. His computer somehow survived the fire and seems to be working just fine, though covered in an permanent smear of smoke and soot damage. But it works. Other essential items that were spared from the fire include the roaster, a significant portion of green coffee stores and a brand new computer server.
From our perch, we look out over the production floor where packaging of coffee has resumed, though hampered by lack of special equipment that was damaged in the fire. They have obtained some new equipment such as the machines that allow them to valve seal the packages and add UPC bar code, enabling them to start selling packages of coffee again. However, workers now have to weigh and fill every single package by hand on a scale, which is extremely time intensive (and usually automated by a machine).
Until last week, Thanksgiving Coffee was only able to supply customers with bulk coffee, but now you’ll start to see packaged coffee back on the shelves. These close quarters have brought workers closer together in every way as they all have to go the extra mile to keep things moving.
They can’t quite keep up with orders and they have received help from various California roasters since the fire, such as Taylor Maid, Peerless, Equator and Santa Cruz Roasting. It’s good to have friends and admirers in the industry to help you through tough times.
The Company has also received an outpouring of support from the community, which has lifted everyone’s spirits and encouraged them to keep doing what they’re doing and have the patience to endure this difficult time. Jenais explains that the fire has given them a lot of perspective on their importance to the local community and see that this is a business that is valued and loved. As people continue to buy their coffee, it gives them all purpose and hope.
As they await the final insurance claim, which will determine the extent and details of a rebuilding effort, they are trucking along. Thanksgiving Coffee Company has been a pillar of Fort Bragg’s business community, and the specialty coffee industry at large, for almost 40 years. And it’s clear that business will go on.
Ways to offer your support:
- Chime in on their Facebook page
- Comment on their blog
- Keep emptying those bulk bins as fast as you have!