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Friday, Sep 21, 2018
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Whole Foods may take Buddy Brew beans statewide

TAMPA — Buddy Brew Coffee’s expansion plans for 2014 are underway, with its roasted beans now being stocked in several Florida Whole Foods Stores.

The company, started in 2010 by Dave and Susan Ward, previously sold coffee only at their Kennedy Boulevard cafe, at Oxford Exchange and at Duckweed Urban Market in downtown Tampa.

Whole Foods began stocking the seven styles of Buddy Brew coffee in its Tampa and Carrollwood stores in mid-December. Stores in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale now carry the line as well. Depending on sales, the brand could go statewide. Whole Foods operates 20 stores in Florida.

The expanded retail presence is part of an expansion of Buddy Brew’s Kennedy Boulevard store. The shop will grow to 4,700 square feet from 1,300 square feet, allowing the company to expand the menu, offer more seating space and provide room for a new roaster that will increase production capacity.

“It’s huge for us,” Dave Ward said. “This is our first true, big step into the grocery market. AIl I can tell you is that the potential is enormous.”

Maria Gumina, a Whole Foods marketing team leader, said the grocery is always looking for new local product providers. Other Tampa products include beers and a new line of salsa made by Cigar City Brewery.

In this case, local grocery workers who were Buddy Brew fans alerted local buyers.

“So many team members were talking to our coffee coordinator, we had to take a look at them,” Gumina said.

Buddy Brew spent about six months working to meet Whole Foods’ packaging and ingredient specifications. The grocery retailer has a policy of carrying foods with no artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners, no preservatives and no hydrogenated fats.

“This could turn into a growth model for us in how we move out of the state,” Ward said.

The coffee company took over its current building at 2020 W. Kennedy Blvd. in August. The expansion originally had been expected to be finished in November. Ward said plans came to a halt when the city realized that the building, which was constructed in 1915, had never been assigned an official use by municipal planners. Almost 100 years of paperwork for everything from architecture to electrical and plumbing to parking layout had to be updated before construction could start.

Workers are scheduled to start renovation this month. The expanded cafe should be finished about six weeks later. The current cafe will continue to operate during the project.

“Right now, for us, the sky is the limit,” Ward said.

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