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Office beverage distributor cuts workers in signal of slow pace of office reopenings

A delivery truck outside the Garden City Park

A delivery truck outside the Garden City Park Coffee Distributing Corp. in a Google Map image. Credit: Google Maps

A Garden City Park company that delivers coffee, snacks and beverages to thousands of office buildings throughout the region has idled 215 employees as part of a “permanent plant layoff,”  a casualty of the slow pace of office reopenings in the region.

Coffee Distributing Corp., with an employee count that had climbed to more than 400 by 2019 after starting as a small, family-run business in 1963, in a required state filing cited “unforeseeable business circumstances prompted by COVID-19" for job cuts that took effect July 1. 

In an emailed statement, company president Ed Holloran declined to say how many employees would remain at the Garden City location, where it has operated since 1984, but noted the facility “remains open and active as we continue to serve our clients.” 

Coffee Distributing Corp., which was acquired by Compass Group North America in 2011, has operated a fleet of 90 vans and trucks to deliver 5,000 coffee products and accessories, bottled water, juice and soda, as well as snacks and cleaning products, to 15,000 office clients throughout the tristate region, according to its website and Newsday.

During normal times, thousands of deliveries are scheduled each day from the company’s Garden City Park and Edison, New Jersey, warehouses, starting at 5 a.m.

But Holloran said the pandemic has altered the office landscape and the company's business. 

“There’s no question that COVID-19 has changed the world we live in and has had a significant impact on our lives and our business in ways we’ve never imagined,” he wrote. “While we are continuing to serve many clients who are still operating through the pandemic, the reality is that because other clients are reopening their facilities at a slower pace, we have had to make very difficult decisions,” including layoffs.

Holloran called the layoffs “nothing short of heartbreaking, especially because these are steps we never imagined we would need to take. We are doing all that we can to support their transition at this time.”

Coffee Distributing started in 1963 as Courier Sales Corp. with plans to import tape recorders into the United States, but transitioned to office coffee sales when brothers Samuel and Louis Friedman bought the assets of Coffee Dispensing Co., which at the time had 20 accounts, selling coffee and equipment to offices.

By 2015, the number of customers had soared to 15,000, Newsday reported, and sales were $75 million to $100 million.

Holloran wouldn’t say how many clients were reactivated as pandemic-control measures are lifted, but said Coffee Distributing continues to “work collaboratively” with them to “understand their needs and provide support for their reopening plans at every step of the way.”

“Looking ahead, we are confident that our road map for the future is strong,” he said, citing initiatives focused on “new levels of safety and care” to new innovations and products that “help clients adapt to the post COVID environment.”

Opening businesses in the COVID-pandemic era has been a slow and meticulous process, with many moving slowly to make sure employees and business clients aren’t subject to undue risks of contracting the virus. Companies have retrofitted office spaces with partitions, increased the frequency and depth of cleaning, installed legions of hand sanitizers and temperature checks while enforcing social distancing in shared spaces — time consuming and sometimes costly work. 

Holloran said Coffee Distributing was “well-positioned to quickly ramp back up just as soon as our clients do."  

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