It’s five o’clock somewhere is a common refrain among wine drinkers, but the phrase equally applies to those who enjoy coffee. No matter the time, though, Jim Spear has both markets covered. Spear, president and CEO of Five O’Clock Brands in Royal Oak, may be the only purveyor of wine and coffee in Michigan.
He also distributes and sells teas, beers, and ciders. The company’s roots trace to 1911, when Standard Coffee Co. was established in Detroit. In those days, coffee was often home-roasted daily and the city’s streetcar network served as the delivery system. In the 1950s, Spear’s father acquired the business, sold off the name, and established King Coffee and Tea Service.
“Even though coffee purchased in a store or online is roasted, it could be six weeks or more before it actually reaches a customer, meaning it won’t taste as good,” says Spear. “We import raw coffee beans from around the world, and we roast (them) fresh daily. When you have fresh-roasted coffee to a customer in as soon as a day or two, it makes a big difference in terms of taste and quality.”
With more than 1,000 commercial and retail clients across 48 states, including Costco, plus another 500 online customers, Spear and his 15 employees generate around $5 million in annual revenue. Coffee makes up 75 percent of the business, while wine and the rest of the offerings account for the rest. The coffee retails for between $18 and $21 for a two-pound resealable bag, which Spear says closely matches wholesale prices.
There are 60 countries with tropical climates that grow coffee, and Spear sources most of his beans from Honduras, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Columbia, and Brazil, among others. There are nine single coffee offerings along with six blends. For custom orders, Spear, who also serves as lead barista and chief aeration officer, operates a tasting room within his 20,000-square-foot space on Edgeland Avenue, east of Woodward Avenue.
While COVID-19 impacted sales, Spear, along with a nephew and a son-in-law, stepped up their offerings on the website for King Coffee and Tea Service and a sister brand, Crazy Fresh Coffee. In another offering, reusable K-Cups are sold or are free with a subscription.
On the wine side, Spear carries dozens of brands from France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and the United States. He distributes to area restaurants, hotels, casinos, and more. “In the mornings we’re tasting and testing our coffee, and in the afternoons and evenings we turn to wine,” Spear says. “We also offer cold-brewed coffee, which has been really catching on.”