Featured by Providence Business News
The scene is half café, half coffee micro-roaster. Beside some typical brewing equipment is a stainless steel coffee roaster, the size of an oven, which fills the air with the aroma of its contents. In an anteroom, burlap sacks of raw coffee beans sit in knee-high stacks along a wall just a few feet away from where two men sip hot coffee.
The décor is international meets family style. On a shelf behind the counter rests a carved wooden mask from Indonesia, home of the Sumatra coffee bean. A Tony Hawk action figure stands nearby, the toy belonging to part-owner Mark Oliveri’s 8-year-old son.
Unlike on the West Coast, here it’s a rare place where moss-green coffee beans are roasted to a chocolate brown, ground to a fine powder and brewed into the finished product under the same roof. But that’s what you’ll find at Majik Coffee Co. on Post Road in North Kingstown.
Owned by brothers Mark and Christopher Oliveri and their mother Susan Oliveri, Majik Coffee was born in 2002 from Mark’s original idea to transform his micro-roasting hobby into a family business.
The Massachusetts natives left their careers – Mark, a restaurant consultant in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Christopher, a chef in San Diego, and Susan, a human resources consultant in the Bay State – to open shop in Rhode Island, where Mark said there is less competition from larger micro-roasters on the West Coast.
“We saw very little activity (in Rhode Island) when it came to true specialty coffees,” Mark said. “So this is where we landed.”
Right away, he said, Majik’s Internet sales took off. And the café drew retail customers seeking a reprieve from the ubiquitous coffee chains in the area. Then early in the company’s second year, its phones began to ring with calls from wholesale customers like Dave’s Marketplace in Wickford, Sandy’s Fine Food Emporium of Westerly, and Wakefield’s Town Meats. (Mark said he meets with each market or restaurant before placing Majik coffee there, ensuring that the businesses will uphold the integrity of the product.)
Part of Majik’s success, Mark said, comes from the family’s commitment to procuring coffee beans only from the best farms in places around the globe – Hawaii, Jamaica, Indonesia, Thailand and South America, to name several.
Majik roasts the myriad coffee varietals in small batches of 33 pounds and 66 pounds (depending on which of their two roasters is used). It uses an innovative process, Mark said, of turning off the roaster at different temperature intervals to allow the beans to roast in their own heat.
The roasted coffee beans are packaged on the premises by company staff, free of the automated systems that Mark said many large roasters use. It ships its coffee to wholesale customers itself without separate distributors, which enables deliveries to arrive within 12 hours of roasting, he said.
Mark said the company, with its current infrastructure, has the capacity to roast 2 million pounds of coffee a year. Last year it roasted about 350,000 pounds.
Meanwhile, sales have tripled in the past year, he said, and about doubled in the year prior. The company has managed to grow at this rate without a sales staff, he noted.
Majik has, however, benefited from alliances with other local businesses and organizations. It has recently partnered with Rhody Fresh, a cooperative of Rhode Island dairy farmers, to put the milk brand on its coffee cup lids in exchange for placement of its logo on the group’s half-and-half product.
The company has found an audience at Providence’s Trinity Repertory Company, donating coffee to be served at the theater, where every cup bears its logo.
Along with Caster’s Bicycles and Fitness, of Warwick, Majik sponsors the Caster’s/Majik Coffee Cycling Team, which promotes the micro-roaster wherever the team competes.
At the moment, Mark said Majik is looking to expand its retail and wholesale businesses in New England, where he said the company considers “home.” He aims to open two to three more cafés in the region, with an emphasis of moving into “close-knit” communities like Wickford.
“There’s a tremendous amount of customer loyalty in this part of the country,” he said, “and if you win people over, you win.”