Currency Coffee Company
Currency Coffee Company follows the money. That is, its coffee, tea, and chocolate products are available in stores across the country wherever a Federal Reserve Bank is located. This is no accident, it’s by design, says owner and founder George Shoemaker.“We’re following a proven model.” Founded in the Stationery Factory in Dalton, they were inspired by the Crane Company. Currency paper leaves the Crane factory in Dalton and eventually ends up at a Federal Reserve Bank. Why shouldn’t another Berkshire product follow the same path?
For each currency element Currency Coffee wants to print on their packaging - pictures, fonts, words - they require prior authorization from entities like the U.S. Treasury, The Bureau of Engraving and Printing, The Federal Reserve, and American Banknote Company, to name a few. On their signature Justice Blend coffee, they feature a picture of Lady Justice from a 1880 $50 gold certificate. For their single origin coffees, they display currencies from the coffee beans’ corresponding country of origin like Puerto Rico, Colombia, and Ethiopia, to name a few.
With a background in food service, George leveraged his 25+ years of expertise to launch a company selling and consulting on coffee, equipment, and installation. In 2017, he brought on business partner David O’Neill. A retired toy industry executive with 35 years of experience, George says he “took David off the golf course and out of retirement.” Their skills balance each other - George with the technical side and David with the more corporate business side. George’s wife Brenda is also a key partner and as an educator has helped frame a new accredited coffee course at Berkshire Community College - the first in the country!
The coffee course isn’t the only way Currency Coffee gives back to the community. At the onset of COVID, just after they signed a long-term lease for their new space in the Allendale Underground and simultaneously lost 80% of their customers, George, David, Brenda and their team thought long and hard about the future of the business. They decided to launch the “Give One, Give One” initiative through which customers could buy a box of coffee to donate to a frontline worker or organization of their choice and Currency Coffee would donate a second box to another organization. From there, they started delivering coffee directly to consumers, expanded their presence at Big Y stores across the region, and finally, opened a coffee lounge in the Allendale Underground. George reflects on the innovation that emerged from this difficult time, “COVID wasn’t a problem, it was a challenge. It gave us the opportunity to examine our systems and I think we came out of it a stronger company.”
The decision to accept BerkShares was a given. “Of course Currency Coffee would accept our region’s local currency,” George remarks, but the rationale goes deeper. Currency Coffee’s motto is “Value for Value.” That describes a very basic relationship about the procurement of goods and services, but can also be seen as touching on their community values, as money is more than just a medium of exchange, a store of value, or a unit of account. “Being part of the BerkShares program helps us to anchor ourselves in the community.” He continues, “We want to help make this work between people, and not just for transactions.”