It's just past closing time inside Germack Pistachio Company's retail store on Russell Street in Eastern Market, and co-owner Frank Germack III is reflecting on the company's storied history.
Germack, founded in 1924 by his grandfather, has transformed from a pistachio-driven enterprise to a multifaceted endeavor; the company most recently entered the coffee market in 2012.
For years, Germack operated out of locations in New York City and Detroit, banking on a trademark red pistachio, a product of a decision to dye the nuts red for aesthetic reasons, as well as to cover the naturally occurring red stains on shells.
"This was before mechanical harvesting," Germack III, 46, explains.
The company succeeded as a nuts-and-spice-based outlet, but two years ago, Germack decided to jump into the coffee-roasting business. Germack III says they already used pistachio roasters, which is similar to the process for coffee, so it made sense. It makes his establishment smell even better too.
"There's nothing like the taste of fresh-roasted coffee," he says. Germack's roaster produces 40 pounds per batch, which takes about 20 minutes to complete, he says. In total, the company produces 600 to 700 pounds of coffee a day.
And although downtown Detroit's coffee market has been flooded by new entrants in recent years, Germack III believes his family's company fills a niche in roasting their own beans.
"Competition is healthy, and we encourage it," he says. "Ultimately, the more types of coffee people can try, the better."
Occasionally, Germack III says, he and the company's roaster will experiment with different blends and pairings of beans to come up with something fresh.
"We can experiment and come up with different blends," he says, "and come up with a very unique taste."
Germack III prides himself on the company's Detroit-based status, something it's maintained throughout its existence.
Born in July 1967 just days after Detroit's infamous riots began, Germack III says he's never lost faith in the city as a place to do business.
"Well, you know, we're proud that we've never left the city," he says. "We're very proud of that because a lot of our competition may consider themselves to be a Detroit brand, but we've always been there; we never considered moving to the suburbs. And I think we've got some dividends from that. I think people recognize us as a longstanding Detroit company that's dedicated to the city."
Germack III says the company employs about 30 people, most of whom are Detroit residents. Besides coffee and pistachios, the company offers pumpkin and squash seeds, dried fruit, chocolate, saltwater taffy, almonds, cashews, peanuts, and more.
The move to a central location in the thick of Eastern Market has proved beneficial too. With the addition of new lofts in recent years, some which are soon to be converted and marketed as condos, Germack III says he's elated about the district's new developments, including the soon-to-be expanded Dequindre Cut greenway, set to be completed later this year.
"We're thrilled to see it," he says.
Germack III says the company eventually plans to hold an event commemorating its 90th anniversary, likely in September.
"We're planning on having a celebration and some events," he says, adding, "We're always coming up with ideas for new products, and we're doing our best to work with the local retailers where we can and support them as Michigan businesses do." — mt
Germack Pistachio Company is located at 2509 Russell St., Detroit. It's open 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 8 am.-noon Saturday. germack.com