My coffee journey starts with my late wife Roberta who, before we were married, introduced me to the unparalleled joy of a great cup of coffee. Since then, we have both been great coffee lovers. When we lived in Chicago decades ago, we would drive to Indianapolis to buy what we thought was the finest coffee. Little did we know at the time, that it was artificially aromatized, which, in short, is not the recipe for great coffee. Aromatizing is a process by which ground coffee has artificial aroma added to it. (More on this in an upcoming blog article.)
After I retired from a career with GE, I did a little consulting, and when I tired of that I would hang out around the house. One day I came into the house from doing a little yard work and sat down at our kitchen table and said, “What’s for lunch?” My wife looked at me and said, “Arnold, I love you, but I didn’t marry you for lunch. I married you for better or for worse, but not for lunch. You need to get out of the house and find something to do!” With that threat, I decided I should find something to keep my time occupied.
Around Thanksgiving in 1991, we went to visit my in-laws in St. Louis. My niece had just been appointed marketing manager for the Galleria, an upscale indoor shopping mall that had just opened. We all went to visit the mall, but since I’m not much of a shopper, I looked for a place to get a cup of coffee. Sure enough, I found a coffee shop - Gloria Jean’s Gourmet Coffees. I was amazed - they had a lineup of 64 different whole bean coffees & served coffee by the cup. I placed my order and watched in awe the line of people buying whole bean coffee. I knew there was something interesting going on. When there was a break in the action, I asked for the owner and told him I was interested in information about the franchise. About a week later, I contacted Gloria Jeans’ office and set up an appointment to discuss their franchise arrangements after which I visited several franchisees. I concluded this was a viable business. It’s hard to believe now, but Louisville only had one coffee shop at the time.
At about the same time, Mall St. Matthews was being renovated and they were looking to add retail operations. There were also two locations in Nashville that really interested me, so I enticed our nephew to come join us, and on the same day in November 1992 we opened three locations: two in Nashville and one in Louisville. More than a little to do! We ran those 3 locations very successfully and added a second location in Louisville. However, I had no plans to make a lifetime career of being a Gloria Jeans Franchisee. We sold the 4 locations at the end of 7 years. After a break, my daughter & son-in-law, who were in business in Elizabethtown convinced me there was a need for coffee shop in Elizabethtown. That’s where we decided in 2002 to open our own Arnold’s Coffee shop serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and of course, great coffee.
Our lives changed dramatically in 2005 when we discovered my wife had Alzheimer’s. We decided to move from Louisville to Elizabethtown so I could be close by my wife at all times and run the café, which I did until Roberta passed away in 2008.
Roberta and Arnold
The story of Arnold's Coffee doesn't end there, though. After I closed the café I received a panicked telephone call from a customer desperately needing Arnold’s Special Blend coffee for her parents. I said since I own the recipe, I will be happy to have our roaster roast 5 pounds for you. I received several additional calls from people wanting Arnold’s Special Blend. I realized there was an opportunity to serve my customers in a new capacity through a wholesale and online business. And that is what Arnold’s Coffee is today!
I want to thank all my loyal customers who have made Arnold’s Coffee possible. As my "coffee journey" continues, I look forward to serving those whose journeys I have shared as well as new customers for many years to come.