It’s been 30 years since Dan and Phil Ephraim launched MPE, the global leader in the industrial coffee grinding industry. But as the brothers stride through their state-of-the-art headquarters, they are quick to recall the rich heritage of their family-owned operation.
Modern Process was founded in 1957 by Don Stage and Roger Fardig who remanufactured Gump Grinders, perhaps the best grinders of the day. Business was good – but they never wanted to get too big, fearing that large competitors would rise up and swallow them. Silently, they grew and captured most of the grinder remanufacturing business in North America. Just as quietly, they put the company up for sale.
“We always talked about going into business together,” Phil says, “and Dan knew the coffee business. I came down with our father to look at the company. Dad turned to us said, ‘Boys, this looks like a great business, buy it.’”
Considered by many to be the US’ Boeing equivalent in the coffee industry, Dan says, “We never forget the importance of our customer relations.”
Dan cites an early startup customer: “When the leading coffee shop brand was just a three-shop operation, we were their supplier. We sold them their first grinder.”
Phil fires the punch line, “And they’re still our customer.”
“We don’t have a service department that just kicks it down the road,” says Phil. “We take it very personally when somebody calls us up to report an issue. We know them and we want to to fix it. Whether that’s a $10,000 grinder or $300,000 grinder, we want that problem to be solved. “
Phil motions to a suitcase partially obscured by a cubicle wall. “Today I’m headed to Israel, with 2,000 pounds of parts to help a customer. We paid for those to be flown over. “
Dan adds, “They’re our customer and we want to take care of them.”
Left to right: Max, Dan, and Phil Ephraim. For two decades Max Ephraim served as chairman of the board and provided wise counsel. After he retired as chief engineer for a GM division, he spent every Thursday at MPE’s factory. “He knew more about our workers and their families than we did,” says Phil.
Dan smiles broadly, “Every year, we throw a Christmas party and honor our employees with a great dinner, bonuses based on performance and gifts. This past Christmas, I think we were all looking in amazement as we saw how many people have been here for a long time. They are a part of all this success and our vision for the future.”
“The same place for 30 some years,” Phil reflects. “I remember when the first employee hit 15 or 20 years. Now there’s a number of them with 25 years right here in our building. They’re part of our family.”
[This post is composed of excerpts from an article titled “Modern Process: Getting the Grind Right for Millions” written by Kevin Sinnott and Lois Nelson published in the Tea and Coffee Trade Journal in April 2012]