Stamford-based BonJo Coffee brews up growing business
STAMFORD — Fans of BonJo Coffee Roasters’ blends can enjoy them at the business’ East Side showroom — and at coffeehouses on Hope Street, High Ridge Road and many other local addresses.
Five years after moving to Stamford, BonJo has built itself into a one-stop-shop for Northeast coffee sellers, with a client base of about 1,000 businesses. The Bonaiuto family, which owns BonJo, credits the growth to their attention to customer service and product quality, with goals to further expand the enterprise this year.
“More business for them is more business for us. You’re not pulling from my customer base,” business partner Marcella Bonaiuto said in an interview last week at BonJo’s headquarters at 345 Elm St. “At the end of the day, you’re still our customer. Grow your business, and use our tools we give you. We want you to succeed.”
The number of area coffee shops carrying the coffee that BonJo roasts at its Elm Street hub has grown steadily since the business relocated in 2013 from Westchester County, N.Y., and consolidated its operations in Stamford. It offers training at its headquarters and at clients’ outlets and also customizes blends.
The BonJo recipes reflect the expertise of founder Joseph Bonauito, 60. He is the father of Marcella Bonaiuto, 33, and co-owns the business with his wife and Marcella’s mother, Maria Bonaiuto. A native of Naples, Italy, Joseph Bonaiuto grew up steeped in coffee-making culture. He later trained to become a roastmaster.
“He’s a great guy, and he has a lot of knowledge in the business,” said Dawn Vaccaro, founder of Humbled Coffeehouse at 575 Hope St., which opened last October and carries BonJo coffee. “He’s been a mentor for me.”
The owners of Pacific Cycling & Triathlon, which opened a cafe in November 2016 in their store at 984 High Ridge Road, said they have done brisk business selling BonJo coffee.
For information on BonJo Coffee Roasters, visit bonjocoffee.com.
“When our bike shop was on Pacific Street, we used to go to BonJo Coffee every day,” said Pacific President Julie Gabay. “We loved the staff and, of course, the coffee. When we decided to open a cafe in the bike shop on High Ridge Road, BonJo Coffee was first on our list to talk to. Joe and Marcella were so helpful with absolutely everything — ranging from equipment, to selecting which would be our signature roast, to even training us to be baristas.”
Founded in 1980 in Yonkers, N.Y., BonJo imported coffee for about 20 years, but the family eventually concluded a homegrown production would produce a better result. Today at its Elm Street base, BonJo roasts all of its coffee — an average of more than 1 million pounds each year.
The Elm Street shop’s menu includes Americano, cappuccino, cortado, espresso, espresso macchiato, flat white and latte varieties.
“What we really use our cafe for is as a showroom,” Marcella Bonaiuto said. “Come taste coffee in its truest form, and then if you want to replicate it in your business, we’ll give you every tool we have here.”
BonJo’s base houses not only its coffee shop, but also a roasting warehouse, distribution center and a workshop to service clients’ equipment. An average of 10 to 15 employees work for BonJo at a given time.
In addition to its own coffee, BonJo sells a number of other products, including tea made by Fairfield-based Bigelow.
BonJo’s building stands within yards of a Dunkin’ Donuts and a Donut Delight — a concentration that does not worry the Bonauitos.
“Nobody is really competition. It’s just about introducing and educating,” Marcella Bonaiuto said. “If you introduce and educate properly, people will be more susceptible to trying your coffee and exploring and liking the flavors of it.”
As business partner, Marcella Bonaiuto focuses on public relations and marketing. She works with a distinctive brand name that is a play on the family’s name, the Italian word for “good,” and the “Joe” nickname for coffee.
“I’m finding a lot more in the social-media outlets that we have been networking more,” she said. “We’re taking it to a whole different level.”
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