H&C Coffee History (by Robert "Red" Hartberger)
In 1927, Harold and Clarence Woods, brothers from Greensboro, North Carolina, established Woods Brother’s Coffee Company in Roanoke, Virginia. They started the company with the simple belief that “Service, Quality and Freshness would sell”. After a brief period, Harold purchased Clarence’s interest in the young company and Clarence returned to North Carolina.
Harold Woods grew the company by purchasing one 150-pound burlap bag of green coffee at a time. The coffee was hand-roasted, ground and packed and then sold to the local merchants of the Roanoke Valley. The coffee was branded “H&C Coffee”, and has been so to this day. Harold handled all facets of the growing company, from manufacturing to delivery. Initially, he converted the rumble seat in a 1920’s model car to haul his coffee to market. In just a short ten years, Woods Brother’s Coffee Company had grown to the point that fresh H&C Coffee was being delivered directly from the roasting plant in Roanoke to customer’s throughout most of Virginia and portions of North Carolina, West Virginia, and Tennessee.
During the war years of the 40’s, Harold made a trip to New York and was impressed by the neon signage used in advertising. Upon his return to Roanoke, he enlisted the help of a local sign company to design and install the “H&C Coffee” sign on top of the roasting plant located on east Campbell Avenue. The sign remained there until the mid 60’s at which time the plant was torn down. The famous sign was relocated to the building on Salem Avenue, which was home to Billy’s Ritz Restaurant. Now its located atop the Mill Mountain Theatre across for the Taubman Museum on Salem Ave. It is now classified as a Historical Landmark.
Between the early 50’s and the late 70’s, Woods Brother’s Coffee Company enjoyed their best years. At one point the company sold more than four million pounds of H&C Coffee annually. Harold stuck to his belief in taking care of his customers. All requests, regardless of how trivial, were never ignored. Upon gaining knowledge of a death in a customer’s family, the company would immediately send flowers and send a representative to the funeral. The company was very proud of the employees and treated them well and with great respect. The salesmen were all addressed as “Mister” by all of the employees including the management staff. For the most part, all of the employees remained with the company until retirement. Currently, Robert (Red) Hartberger, who was hired in 1954 by Harold Woods, remains on staff and contributes greatly to the company’s success.
Harold Woods had nine children, of which eight were active in the business. At the time of his death, six of the children remained stockholders. His four sons became known as the “Woods Brothers”. They all served the company in numerous capacities, ending their respective careers as President.
Nevin Woods Sr. / President / '56 - '59
Norman (Mutt) Woods / President / '59 - '66
Robert (Bob) Woods / President / '66 - '72
Edwin (Eddie) Woods / President / '72 - '89
In 1985, Roanoke experienced a devastating flood that affected most of the city. Woods Brother’s Coffee Co. was hit hard, losing the entire inventory of product, vehicles, equipment, and office records. The impact was so great the company was never able to recover. The doors were closed in 1989.
In 1990, the company was reopened as H&C Coffee Company by a group of private investors and was managed by Ed Woods, the former President of the company. The company remained a viable entity in Roanoke for the next ten years, meeting the needs of their loyal customers. In September 2000, the company was acquired by Quality Coffee Company. Like H&C, Quality Coffee was Roanoke-Born and Roanoke-Bred. Established in 1981 by David Booth, a past employee of Woods Brother’s Coffee, Quality Coffee was built on the similar tradition of meeting and exceeding the customer’s needs.
The joining together of these two great local companies has been well received by the Food Service Industry. Every day, more and more fine establishments are discovering that they can trust their highly profitable beverage program to Quality Coffee / H &C. Quality Coffee’s years of experience, outstanding product selection, and value-driven pricing, coupled with service and delivery that’s second to none, makes the choice in beverage service crystal clear. The future looks bright for Quality Coffee / H&C and their customers.