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History of Columbia Street Roastery

If you have an interest in how family businesses reinvent themselves, we believe you will enjoy reading about our history and following the circuitous route by which Herriott’s Coffee and Columbia Street Roastery came into being.

          The Herriott family has had a business in Champaign-Urbana, IL since 1951.  Herriott’s Cities Service gas station was the initial business started by our father, Merle.  Interestingly, when the station opened there were twelve neighborhood family grocery stores and one other gas station in a 3-square mile radius of the station.  At the end of 1953 there was one neighborhood family grocery store and twelve gas stations.  This time period marked the initial change to “box stores” of around 10-15,000 square feet in the early 50’s.  In the 90’s, box stores began moving to 150,000 to 250,000 square feet.

          The family changed the station into one of the first convenience stores selling milk, bread, candy, cigarettes, tires, oil and gas and still retained two full-time auto mechanics.  Ironically, the station did not sell coffee.  If you stop by the retail area of the Roastery, you will see a picture of the station that was located at the corner of Market & Bradley in Champaign.
        
          In the late 50’s, the family added the sales, service and rental of lawn and garden equipment.  The rental concept was prompted by a request from a customer.  Eventually, the station was closed when the rental aspect grew.  The business had matured into Herriott’s Rental and, as it grew, it was moved to Williams Street and then two blocks around the corner to John Street in Champaign.  In 1985, the general equipment was sold and the decision was made to focus on events and party rental.  Herriott’s Party Rental, renting all types of specialty items and tents for parties and events now operates out of the building at 2100 S. Neil Street in Champaign, Illinois.  Please check out the rental company’s web site through the “links” sections.
         
          In the beginning, one of the practical realities of adding a coffee service was that the winter months were a little lean for rentals in Central Illinois.  Once again, a catering customer and close family friend who was in the food service industry, suggested we explore office coffee service (OCS).  The thought was, it would complement as well as help promote the rental business.  In 1989, the venture into OCS coffee was started.  True to the plan, OCS helped cash flow in the winter months, but the reduction in coffee sales in the warmer months was far less than expected, at only five to ten percent.
         
          Soon, Herriott’s Coffee expanded beyond servicing offices.  We began to provide whole bean coffees and supplied products to higher-end restaurants and coffee houses.  Once again, at the urging of two customers, a local French chef, Jean-Pierre and his friend, Piero “Papa” Faraci, founder of the Great Impasta restaurant, we began roasting our own whole bean coffees.  In 1996, Herriott’s Coffee began jointly using a roaster with a friend in the coffee business.
         
          In 1998, Herriott’s Coffee purchased the building located at 24 East Columbia Street where we installed a new small-batch roaster.  Thus the name Columbia Street Roastery (CSR) was born and is synonymous with Herriott’s Coffee.  Interestingly, the name Columbia Street Roastery was almost not used as the name “Columbia” is spelled as the explorer spelled it and not as the country is spelled. 
         
          Columbia Street Roastery is proud to be a self-contained coffee operation.  Any product which bears the Columbia Street Roastery name is roasted and packaged at our local plant on Columbia Street in half, one, two or five pound bags and even fractional packs ready for brewing.
         
          CSR roasts 19 different varietals from 16 different countries.  These coffees can be purchased as single varietals or blended to supply restaurants and coffee houses throughout a 100-mile radius of Champaign-Urbana via a delivery route system.
         
          Columbia Street Roastery directly imports teas from China, India and Sri Lanka for CSR’s line of traditional, decaffeinated and flavored iced teas.  These teas are mainly used in higher-end restaurants and coffee houses, but are also available through the retail store for home iced tea brewers and “sun” teas.  All of the teas used in the flavored iced teas and in some of the traditional blends are 100% organic and fair trade certified.  The iced teas developed by CSR complement the China Mist line of iced teas also available through the Roastery. CSR is also developing its own line of loose-leaf hot teas to complement the Mighty Leaf and Leaves line of sachet hot teas we distribute.
         
          Please keep checking this site for new developments and additions to our products and services.  Thank you for having an interest and taking the time to learn about our growth as a company.