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Farmer Bros. Co.: Designing a move on caffeine

🕐 3 min read

Farmer Bros. Co.

1912 Farmer Brothers Drive

Northlake 76262

If you drink coffee, you’ve probably had a cup or two of Farmer Bros. coffee.

Now, with the 105-year-old company relocated from Torrance, California, to Northlake, company officials say they plan to take advantage of the opportunities available in North Texas.

It was Farmer Bros. Co.’s first move in its history and officers wanted to get it right, said CEO Mike Keown.

“Believe me, if you’re the CEO you really want to get this one right,” Keown said in a recent speech to the Downtown Rotary Club.

His first visit to Fort Worth set the tone. “I can tell you the leadership of Fort Worth was fantastic. First among none,” he said. “And it’s not just on the business stuff, but the attitude that we faced here.”

Keown recalled one meeting where Fort Worth representatives told him that if Farmer Bros. didn’t relocate in the city, they would still be happy to help.

“We heard that again and again. It was really unique, that kind of spirit of ‘if you end up in Dallas, we’d prefer to have you here, but if you do, we’re here to help.’ … That meant a lot.”

The company’s new $40 million headquarters is a half-million-square-foot, LEED-certified office building on 28 acres in Northlake near Interstate 35W and Texas Motor Speedway. The building will include water conservation equipment, energy-saving climate-control systems and a 1,000-square-foot teaching lab designed to host training classes for industry associations such as the Specialty Coffee Association of America. Farmers Bros. has about 1,600 employees nationwide, and over 300 will be in the new facility.

“We’ll have baristas working providing coffee for employees and guests up front,” he said. “As I mentioned this will be a training facility as well as very customer centric, so we may have franchisees from McDonald’s come out, or Target … as well as a number of other places.”

Dallas-based Stream Realty Partners is developing the facility.

Keown says the new headquarters is designed for millennials.

“I’m clearly not a millennial, I’m a boomer. I tend to like to stay at my desk but I understand it’s very important for millennials to grab their computers, walk around, and have space to do that, and people are really taking advantage of it,” he said.

Founded in 1912, Farmer Bros. sells organic, direct trade and sustainably produced coffee for restaurants, hotels, casinos, offices, quick service restaurants, convenience stores, health care facilities and other food service providers as well as private brand retailers.

Farmer Bros. has been percolating with other ideas too. Last year it made the move into the tea market by acquiring all the assets of premium tea manufacturer and distributor China Mist Brands Inc. for $10.8 million, plus a performance-based payment of $500,000 if certain sales levels are achieved in 2017 and 2018.

The tea expansion came as the coffee company ground out a profit of $89.9 million, or $5.41 per share, for the fiscal year that June 30, 2016. Revenue was $544.4 million.

Not all the changes were viewed favorably by some shareholders who attempted – unsuccessfully – to heat things up at the company’s annual meeting last year.

For Keown, the move to the Fort Worth area echoes back to this childhood. “My grandmother was from Fort Worth and I was regaled with stories of what appropriate behavior was for a young man growing up in the suburbs of Chicago,” he said. “Those manners, I think, have stayed with me and all of my sons. I also learned if you don’t follow those manners you may take a smack in the back of the head, as I did very, very often. My grandmother regretted that I was not raised in Texas.”

Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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