Good news for those of you who’ve been jonesing for your Horn & Hardart coffee since the last of the iconic brand’s automats shut down in 1991: The internet has really taken off, and you can now get it there.
From its first diner in Philadelphia in 1888, Horn & Hardart went on to become the preeminent automat chain in the United States, with more than 150 locations throughout Philadelphia and New York during the company’s peak in the 1940s and 1950s, serving customers a range of prepared foods from coin-operated automatic vending machines.
Under the new name Horn & Hardart Coffee, the brand is being revived by business partners who originally attempted to revive the company from bankruptcy in the 1990s. As the name suggests, the company will be focused on coffee — as opposed to bygone Horn & Hardart automat classics such as fruit pie, Chicken a la King or creamed spinach — offering a simple lineup of three coffees through direct-to-consumer online sales and subscriptions in its “automat club.”
“Our goal is to bring Horn & Hardart coffee back to relevancy — make it as significant as it was in its heyday,” said Al Mazzone, who originally purchased the H&H assets in 1991 and brought back H&H-branded food products to grocery shelves. Now Mazzone and his wife and co-owner Dawn Mazzone have partnered with entrepreneurs John Tooher and Dan Lievens, enlisting the private-label services of a local roasting outfit to revive the H&H coffee brand.
“Throughout its inception and growth, Horn & Hardart was always focused on quality coffee. H&H introduced the first fresh-drip brewed coffee to Philadelphia and New York, which replaced a boiled process, and a fresh batch was brewed every 20 minutes in each location,” the company said in an announcement of the brand relaunch. “In the 1950s, automats sold more than 90 million cups of fresh-brewed coffee each year and became known as having the best coffee on the East Coast. But times changed and it became impossible to support so many large Automats as smaller, less expensive fast food chains emerged.”
Mazzone said that in trying to replicate the company’s original coffee blend — the first blend was actually augmented by chicory in the New Orleans style absorbed by original H&H co-founder Frank Hardart — he pored over old shipping records to find origin locations, discovering coffees from Colombia, Costa Rica and Brazil. Coffees from those countries now go into the reinvented H&H flagship blend, called the Liberty Roast. The company is also offering a decaf blend and an espresso blend, while all three blends are available bagged in whole bean or ground forms, or in capsules.
“We’re really excited about reigniting a national treasure that has been dormant and rekindling excitement in the generation that yearns for a side of nostalgia with their cup of Joe,” Tooher said in the H&H announcement. “Our challenge at the same time is figuring out how to appeal to a younger generation of coffee lovers who are new to the H&H name.”