SPRING HILL — Clayton Etchison perched on a high stool, cup of espresso in hand, surrounded by heroic-sized coffee machines and small hardware bins full of probes, pistons, flow meters and more.
Fronting the office-workroom, the sign merely stated the name of the business, Jaguar Coffee.
No neon, no renditions of a steaming cup, no enticements to come in and sit a spell.
Jaguar Coffee, which was established 20 years ago in Spring Hill and now has 15 other locations from Miami to Tallahassee, repairs and services commercial espresso and other beverage-making machines.
"People say, I've never thought of a business like that," Etchison acknowledged.
Yet, when companies such as Starbucks and Panera Bread depend on coffee makers costing as much as $25,000, keeping these brewers in tip-top condition isn't for do-it-yourselfers.
"We consider ourselves the experts on all espresso equipment," said Etchison, 26. His father, Don Etchison, now semi-retired, founded the firm after realizing he preferred tinkering with the machines to operating a retail coffee shop.
The younger Etchison has followed in his footsteps after earning a degree in marketing at Florida Gulf Coast University. The local shop employs 11 workers, mostly technicians. All are schooled in coffee — where it is grown, and how it is roasted, prepared and served.
Nearby, technician Jeremy Barry answered the phone. "You say your coffee's bitter?" he asked. Barry's first thought: filter.
"The huge issue in Florida is hard water," Etchison said.
Not only do the minerals clog filters, they can impair the flavor of the coffee.
"A lot of places don't change filters regularly," he said.
While a filter replacement can be accomplished in a few minutes and cost as little as $75, completely ridding the machines of lime can consume eight to 10 hours and run to big bucks.
Jaguar performs those services, plus offers an alternative, its own proprietary filtration unit, which Etchison described as a scale inhibitor, water softener and carbon blocker.
Beyond filtering, Etchison pointed out of 15 espresso machine models the company sells, "They all have hundreds of parts, thousands of parts." His technicians know them all, having both factory and in-house training.
Beyond Florida, Etchison noted that sellers of coffee roasters in Seattle, New York and Chicago call on Jaguar to service their machines.
Of Jaguar's own customer base, the manager noted some are corporations with as many as 500 outlets.
In sales, he said, "We recommend several brands. We tailor a particular recommendation to a customer's needs. We analyze volume, style and functionality."
Jaguar's technicians are always available. "If your espresso machine is down, you're not making money," Etchison said. "That's why we're 24/7." Also, 365 days a year.
As an "artistic thing," the local shop also roasts and blends coffees. Master roaster Heather Plummer reigns over a roaster the size of a cement mixer in a back room fragrant with aromas from plantations of Mexico and Brazil.
Jaguar is branching out in another way. Said Etchison, "Working with an engineer, a machinist, we're building a (espresso) machine right now to specifications of one of our customers."
Beth Gray can be contacted at [email protected]