Coffee Talk

April 4, 2012

People of a certain age begin monitoring the obituary section in their local newspaper to make sure they don’t miss the passing of an old friend or former colleague. As a relatively young person, I’m nowhere close to establishing that ritual myself, but I am morbidly fascinated by the lives that are eulogized, daily, in the New York Times. These are the stories of people who accomplished something worthy enough to have been featured in an international media outlet, the stories of their lives offering a history lesson in microcosm.

For instance, a headline the other day, “Samuel Glazer Dies at 89; Helped Create Mr. Coffee,” caught my eye because I love a good “inventor/business innovation yarn” and, well, I still brew my own coffee.

Even as many of us turn to professional baristas for our gallon of Joe in the morning, it’s hard to imagine a world where a do-it-yourself coffee making machine with requisite paper filter and glass carafe were not de rigueur on every kitchen counter in America. As the Times reported, “before Glazer and Vincent Marotta came up with the idea, the two most common ways to make a cup of coffee at home were to percolate it (smells good but can taste bitter) or to stir instant coffee in boiled water (not as good as brewed).”

As the story goes, the two men, who were good friends since high school, had been partners in a series of businesses including one involving coffee delivery in the Cleveland area in the late 1960s. From customer requests they realized that there was a demand for smaller, home-style versions of the massive industrialgrade coffee machines inside their delivery trucks. Realizing this opportunity, they hired two former Westinghouse engineers to bring their concept to fruition, and by 1972, the Mr. Coffee coffeemaker was a household name, literally.

To avoid the bitterness that boiling coffee can cause, the machine heated the brew to only about 200 degrees. But it may have been the decision to hire former Yankee Joe DiMaggio as their pitchman that really put Mr. Coffee on the map. He was the public face of the brand for 14 years and is credited as one of the reasons why it would gain and hold approximately 50 percent of the market share for coffeemakers into the late ’70s.

A coffeemaker may seem like a pedestrian technology compared with those installed by our industry these days (especially the mini computers most of us carry in our pockets.) But the ability of Glazer and Marotta to recognize a market need and go after it with a technical innovation to simplify and improve on a daily consumer task is at the heart of what most consumer electronics manufacturers and custom installation integrators do every day. There’s a lot of talk about where our industry is headed and how it’s going to survive the rapid evolution of technologies and profit erosion. But, in my opinion, the future has always been about building a better mousetrap and solving new challenges that arise.

As an industry we need to keep looking ahead and educating ourselves on the technologies of the future, rather than dwelling on the products that made us successful in the past. Find a way to reinvent your business like the Mr. Coffee guys did. The goods and services you sell can be as essential to daily life as that morning cup.

Want to read more stories like this?
Get our Free Newsletter Here!


No records found
Photo GalleriesMore Galleries >
Doug Henderson and Joe Atkins

Doug Henderson (left) president of Bowers & Wilkins Group North America, and Joe Atkins, Bowers & Wilkins global CEO, invited consumer and t...

BMWs, McLarens, and Volvos

Upon arrival, guests experienced Bowers & Wilkins Automotive products in BMW, McLaren, and Volvo cars (the Maserati wasn’t available...

Demo'ing the McLaren

Bowers & Wilkins North America president Doug Henderson show demonstrates how to open the door on the McLaren.

B&W Speakers in the McLaren

Bowers & Wilkins speakers in the McLaren.

B&W Vintage Living Room

Bowers & Wilkins North America president Doug Henderson shows off the company’s vintage living room space, which featured vintage ge...

The B&W LP Collection

Part of the Bowers & Wilkins vintage living room space is this collection of LP covers that represent a seminal album from each of the com...

The B&W Museum

Bowers & Wilkins had to purchase much of the gear in its museum because most discontinued products were not kept over the last 50 years.

The Wisdom of John Bowers

Words to live by from Bowers & Wilkins founder John Bowers

The History of B&W

A timeline of Bowers & Wilkins’ product and company history

Andy Kerr and Martial Rousseau

Senior product manager Andy Kerr and head of research Martial Rousseau from the U.K. Bowers & Wilkins office. They were showing off the ne...

Turbine Head

  The turbine head for the 800 D3 houses the mid-range speakers.

Andy Kerr

Senior product manager Andy Kerr holds up the very heavy solid-body turbine head.

Historical Flagship Products

A look at the company’s flagship products through its 50-year history

The Legendary Diamond Tweeter Dome

To show off the company’s legendary diamond tweeter dome, one was encased in plastic to protect the brittle material. The tweeter domes ...

Demo'ing the 800 D3 Speakers

Bowers & Wilkins’ new demo room showcases its new flagship 800 D2 speakers, which are the outcomes of one of the company’s mos...

800 D3 Close Up

The silver 6-inch FST midrange drive unit of the 800 D3 uses Bower & Wilkins’ new proprietary Continuum woven material. Developed af...

In-wall Demo

Bower & Wilkins’ showcases its in-wall speakers in this space.

The B&W Nautilus

Bower & Wilkins’ legendary Nautilus is 17 years old but just as contemporary now as it was then.

Nautilus Pricing

A wall plaque in the “Nautilus demo room” itemizing the price of the system

Theater Demo

A theater demo showcasing the flexibility of 800 D2 speakers