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Winter Park-based coffee house seeks a comeback

Barnie’s incoming chairman Jim Pugh, left, stands in front of a Winter Park store with founder and incoming CEO Phil Jones.

Special to the Times

Barnie’s incoming chairman Jim Pugh, left, stands in front of a Winter Park store with founder and incoming CEO Phil Jones.

One of the pioneers of Americans' switch to gourmet coffee, Barnie is back at the helm of Barnie's Coffee & Tea with big expansion plans for the Tampa Bay market.

"Barnie" Phil Jones learned his way around a roaster as a divinity student in 1960s' San Francisco. Now he sees job No. 1 as rebuilding the retail side of the Winter Park company he founded in 1980 that once was in 110 regional malls.

On Friday, Jones acquired Barnie's for an undisclosed price in an equal partnership with Jim Pugh, an Orlando-based apartment building developer.

Barnie's sells its beans and ground coffees at Publix supermarkets, Sweetbay Supermarket, through an office coffee service and 40 franchised stores. Except for seven company stores, the last 56 mall stores were sold to Starbucks.

Within five years, Jones, 60, hopes to double sales to about $50-million and have a chain with 100 stores.

"Tampa Bay and Orlando will be ground zero," he said.

Jones sold to Sara Lee Corp. in 1998 as Starbucks marched across Florida.

He steps back in at a treacherous time. Starbucks is reeling from a down economy that prompted many fans to trade down to less pricey drinks or brew their coffee fix at home. McDonald's, Dunkin Donuts and many convenience stores have heated up the competition with better quality joe.

"While Starbucks fights McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts with little coffee bars, we'll have larger stores stocked more like Dean & DeLuca," said Jones.

That means a wider selection of coffees, teas, iced drinks and fresh baked breakfast goods plus packaged gourmet shortbreads, jams, cookies and gifts like those at Harry & David.

The revival of Barnie's stores in the Tampa Bay area got some help from Rick Coia, an aggressive franchisee. Since December, he has opened operations in Lutz and Countryside and plans more in Trinity, Oldsmar and Clearwater Beach. He put a kiosk in Tyrone Square Mall and plans stores with drive-through windows at gas stations.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

>>FAST FACTS

Where he's been

"Barnie" Phil Jones, who served 10 years as a Presbyterian minister before venturing into the coffee business at 32, has been in Colorado for the past decade, where he developed a residential community.

"Developers can be reviled there, but I got it done," he said. "And I really missed the coffee business and Florida."

Winter Park-based coffee house seeks a comeback 03/07/08 [Last modified: Friday, March 14, 2008 5:47pm]
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