Thursday, December 07, 2006

Heres a chance to support a local business

From the Examiner:

Columbia - Coffee is in the family genes of Juan Carlos Ramirez.

Since 1909, his family has roasted and sold coffee beans in his native Venezuela.

Today, his company — Orinoco Coffee & Tea in Columbia — has 25 employees operating a 10,000-square-foot warehouse in the Howard County section of Laurel. And the company recently opened its first retail coffee store at 7190 Oakland Mills Road Suite 7 in Columbia.

That’s a long way from 1996 when Ramirez and his brother delivered coffee beans by bicycle in Washington, working out of his brother’s condominium.

Ramirez is vice president of the company, which also wholesales coffee beans to 350 customers, including two national clients.

“We decided we needed a retail front,” Ramirez said. “An opportunity came along to open a retail store in a good location.”

And he doesn’t fear taking on national chains such as Starbucks, which has a shop located a few blocks away.

“Starbucks has made it better for coffee companies. Because of Starbucks, the average customer thinks about coffee,” he said.

Meanwhile, Starbucks continues to open stores in the region.

The company recently announced it was opening a store in the Airmall section of the main terminal at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

“With a high-profile name like Starbucks, we are confident the Airmall location will have a constant traffic flow from travelers loyal to the brand,” said Mark Knight, vice president and regional director BAA Maryland, the developer and manager of retail programs at BWI. “Coffee has become such a staple in our lives, and we are pleased to offer this new location.”

And Starbucks recently signed a lease for 1,600 square feet of retail space in The Shops at Quarry Lake, a planned shopping center off Greenspring Avenue in Baltimore County. The shopping center is scheduled to open in late Spring 2007.

“Starbucks is a real draw,” said Tommy Obrecht, a principal with Obrecht Properties in Timonium, which is handling the project.

“People love Starbucks. It’s like a cult,” Obrecht said.

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