The Smell Of Success

A lifelong love of coffee led an Oklahoma City man into the roasting business.

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Dan Joliff grew up surrounded by the coffee business. He now builds roasters in his Oklahoma City business. Photo by Brent Fuchs.

Dan Joliff grew up surrounded by the coffee business. He now builds roasters in his Oklahoma City business. Photo by Brent Fuchs.

In 1966, at the age of 6, Dan Joliff fell in love with coffee. He was enamored with his father’s work as district supervisor over southern Oklahoma for Cain’s Coffee, as well as the nice suit-and-tie apparel his dad wore and the cool truck he drove. Fast forward nearly five decades, and Joliff owns Oklahoma City-based US Roaster Corp, supplying roasters to businesses worldwide.

“I just loved the smell of coffee as a kid and simply wanted to be around it,” says Joliff. “Coffee is part of our culture, always has been and probably always will be. Yes, coffee is a big deal these days with a coffee shop on every corner and many brands out there. But back in the 1920s and ‘30s, coffee was also very popular, and most high-end grocers roasted their own coffee in-house. But then the ‘30s and ‘40s were hard times for folks. In the ‘50s, people were getting over the war, and by the ‘60s there was more prosperity and changes. By the time the ‘70s came around, gourmet coffee was starting to get really popular again, and it has just grown since then. Everything that was old is new again. I was just at my dad’s, and he made me a filtered coffee. People forget that they were also making filtered coffee using roasted, ground beans 50 years ago, too. Just like we are today.”

“It’s not just coffee,” says Joliff. “We built roasters for nuts and seeds, including for some world aid operations. We work with the world’s largest chocolate manufacturers like Barry Callebaut and M&M Mars. We’re here to stay.

Joliff’s parents approached him in 1979, offering to cosign loans so that he could start a coffee company – Coffee Professionals.

“I learned from my father by just watching him, and he also tutored me on the making and selling of coffee,” he says. “We chose an old building and got to work setting up the grinding, roasting, packaging, silos – all of it. Friends were impressed that we were offering roast coffee in the early ‘80s. My parents joined the company with me by 1984.”

Over time, Joliff realized he preferred the process of manufacturing the equipment to produce great coffee more than simply supplying the best roast coffee around.

“My parents were worried and wanted to stick with just coffee, so I gave them that business in 1996, and I started Roasters Exchange, and by 2002 I was manufacturing my own machines. That business is now what we call US Roaster Corp. My 40 employees along with my wife and I, we furnish machines to Crimson Cup, Counter Culture, Portola Coffee, Farmer’s Brothers, Sara Lee and many others – including Cain’s Coffee. We furnish machinery all over the world – most recently down to Costa Rica. And all of it manufactured right here in Oklahoma City.”

US Roaster Corp is a family affair, says Joliff, with a fabrication and engineering crew “that has just great expertise. And my mother in law, Barbara Woods, she manages the office and keeps us in line. My son, Daniel, he runs and maintains the water operations and helps with customer support.”

Joliff has never really advertised, and his products always have a waiting list, with each machine customized and only about 50 in production at any one time in what he describes as a slow, meticulous process that “starts when the steel arrives” and ends with training the customer how to use it.

“It’s not just coffee,” says Joliff. “We built roasters for nuts and seeds, including for some world aid operations. We work with the world’s largest chocolate manufacturers like Barry Callebaut and M&M Mars. We’re here to stay.”

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