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Revival of US coffee icon Horn & Hardart

From the February 2018 issue.

A 130-year-old American staple comes back from the dead one more time, catering to coffee customers both old and new.

Albert Mazzone was a six year old when he was first introduced to Horn & Hardart in 1954. By that time, the then-booming business had expanded well beyond its original coffee shop on Chestnut Street in downtown Philadelphia. The brand, which had 157 locations across Philadelphia and New York City at its peak, had become ubiquitous with high-quality coffee and fast food. Horn & Hardart was serving nearly 500,000 patrons and 275,000 cups of coffee every day.

Fast forward to today and the coffee-shop-turned-full-service-restaurant has a stronger presence in museums. After a rocky road that included several bankruptcies, all the locations were shut down. The only active real estate of the now-130-year-old brand is an e-commerce website run by none other than Mazzone. He and his wife Dawn own 70 per cent; their business partners Dan Lievens and John Tooher each own 10 per cent, with the remainder scattered among other stakeholders.

Over the decades, Mazzone became more than just a customer and fan of the popular venue; he became part owner of various iterations. In the past six to seven years, Mazzone started buying back all remaining assets of the near-dead company.

“I didn’t want the name to die out because it was an emotional attachment for me,” he says. “But while I was working hard to keep the name alive, I was suffering [personally] and it had become an expensive hobby.”

It was Dawn who pushed him to “do something about it or stop complaining”, Mazzone tells Global Coffee Report. “So we came up with a compromise: I can keep complaining, but I would do something about it.”

That “something” was to fully commit to relaunching the iconic brand. Because Mazzone had always been more interested and invested in Horn & Hardart’s coffee, that would be the focus of the relaunch.

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