NAMA will honor industry veteran Howard Chapman as the association’s 2019 Coffee Legend at the opening session of its annual Coffee, Tea & Water (CTW) Show in Anaheim on Monday, November 18. Chapman, former president of the Office Coffee Division of Royal Cup Coffee, also served as the chair of NAMA and chair of the NAMA Foundation. As NAMA’s former office coffee committee chair, Chapman led the initial development of the NAMA CTW Show.
Q: NAMA will recognize you as its 2019 Coffee Legend next week. Do you have any thoughts you’d like to share about this recognition?
A: I am completely humbled. I have had a unique opportunity to get to know so many great people in our industry. I've learned tremendously from those people, and whatever volunteer time and effort I've put in with NAMA has come back to me tenfold, in terms of overall satisfaction and relationships. I appreciate the recognition.
Q: What has been the impact for you in your leadership at NAMA and your involvement with NAMA throughout the years?
A: My first official experience with NAMA was as chairman of the office coffee committee that was the group behind CTW. I got a unique opportunity to lead that group with some outside help through a strategic planning effort, where I got to know a lot of very smart people and learn from them. That happened to coincide with Carla’s [NAMA CEO Carla Balakgie] arrival at NAMA, and she played an instrumental role and was very encouraging. Along the way, I was asked to be a part of the NAMA board and ultimately took the chairman's seat. At each step along the way, I think the thing that impressed me the most is that within this industry — whether it be competitors, suppliers or service providers — we've got some brilliant people and some very good businesspeople.
Q: Given your perspective, what advice would you give to a young person interested in building a career in this industry?
A: I would say that this is an incredible industry and while it is what I call a meat-and-potatoes industry — where you've got to roll up your sleeves, work hard and get to know your customers and grow your customer base — there are enormous opportunities. While there has been consolidation because companies elected to cash in and move on, there's also been a lot of fierce independence among operators. I see some intentional grooming by the leadership that is my age [in] bringing their children and their spouses into the business, finding suitable opportunities that match their talents. It's a lot of fun to watch that happen. I think if you just default to the young leaders' group within NAMA, that is an energized and supercharged group that is going to pave their own way. Once they get their feet solidly planted on a firm foundation, they'll have the opportunity to put their stamp on it and evolve the business in the direction that they see fit.
Q: Tell us more about your experience at Royal Cup.
A: I started my career working my way through college at a law firm in Atlanta. I got a great introduction to what business is all about and had solid mentors at that firm. I took that experience, had a brief stopover for two years at a startup, and then on to Royal Cup in '92. I started as a district manager in the Atlanta office coffee district. We grew our market size dramatically; at some point along the way I was named regional manager for the Georgia OCS group, and then continued to have very good success. I had an opportunity to build a division, which precipitated the move in '98 to Birmingham. During my tenure as division manager and president of the office coffee division, I was able to lead an expansion into the Midwest, upper Midwest, west to Phoenix/Denver, and down through the state of Florida.
Q: What is your favorite coffee drink?
A: You know what? It is a fresh-brewed, black coffee Costa Rican Tarrazu. It is the go-to. Tarrazu is a specific growing region outside of San Jose in Costa Rica that has the highest altitudes and produces a really sweet, hard bean coffee. In my opinion, it really doesn't get any better.