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Reflections

Standard Coffee Company Would Roll Rain or Shine

By Charles Cooper

Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week. Last week I didn’t write my usual annual column about Veteran’s day and I meant no disrespect.  I think all of you know my strong feelings about veterans and active Military people.

My Dad and three of my uncles were in World War I and I had five cousins in World War II. My cousin, Melvin Ford, and I served during the Korean War.  I refer to that one as a war even if Harry Truman and his cohorts saw fit to refer to it only as a “Police Action.”  

The other day I saw a truck marked Swanns that delivers frozen food to customers door-to-door and it brought back a lot of memories.  In the 1920s, New Orleans company had a coffee product called Luzianne which was sold in stores all over the south.

I remember when they were seeking to expand their market area, barns over the country would have a sign in the shape of a cup of coffee painted on their tin roofs.  An old gentleman told me that each year they would send him a case of coffee to let the sign be repainted again.

In any event, they realized that with bad roads and poor transportation, country people had no easy access to a store.

They decided to bring the store to them and Standard Coffee Company was born.  My introduction to this company was through the late Cecil Sager who had a management job with them.  He became a good friend even after he left not long after I met him, taking a job in the  Post Office, a position he held for the rest of his life.  

The premise of the company, like most successful ideas, was based in simplicity.  The company would send a crew of solicitors throughout the country to sign up people for the service.  A new customer would agree to buy his coffee and each purchase entitled him to coupons on a premium – usually some type of cookware or coffee pot.  

When they had bought enough to pay off the premium, which had been given to them in advance, they would be given a choice of a new one.  The routes were set up on a two week basis, called A week and B week.  The route operator was required to call on the same day each two weeks.  

The trucks even had as part of their logo, “Rain or Shine, I’m on Time.”  The top of each truck was painted a bright orange and became part of their image.  As time went on tea and other household products were added and eventually linens and appliances could be bought on a time payment plan.  All good things have to come to an end and with good roads, dependable cars and the rise of Wal-Mart, Standard Coffee passed into history.  

Their number one coffee and tea are still on store shelves under the Luzianne label and can be purchased today.  I worked for them on two different occasions, and made a good living both times and I can personally recommend their coffee and tea as being top of the line.  Cecil Sager told me once that each time he saw a Standard Coffee truck for a brief minute he wanted to go out and get on board.  

I learned a lot about selling and customer service, lessons that have remained with me all these years, and I’m proud to have been a part of that company.  I look forward to hearing from you as  your input is always welcome and have contributed to this column for the nearly nine years it’s been around.  My email address is:

charlescooper3616@sbcglobal.net or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Tn 38101 and have a great week.

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