From agriculture to high technology, a majority of family businesses are passed down from father to children, creating a vital link across generations while benefiting the broader economy. In honor of Father’s Day, Mihaylo News is profiling F. Gaviña & Sons Inc., a four-generation, Cuban-American gourmet coffee importer and roaster based in the Los Angeles area that is active in Mihaylo College’s Center for Family Business.
For many of us, the day cannot begin until we enjoy our favorite brand of coffee. According to the National Coffee Association, 54% of American adults drank coffee every day as of the start of this decade. Coffee growth, production and sales is second only to crude oil in global value, employing subsistence farmers in developing countries and baristas in major Western cities.
Among the companies ensuring that fine coffee makes its way from remote hillsides to your home, office or favorite restaurant is F. Gaviña & Sons Inc., a Vernon-based importer, roaster and supplier. The company is active in Mihaylo’s business network through membership in the Center for Family Business, which provides networking, development and engagement opportunities for Southern California family-owned firms.
A Dream Survives Over Four Generations and 3,000 Miles
The Gaviña story began in 1870, when brothers José María and Ramón Gaviña left their native Spain for economic opportunities in the New World. They settled in Cuba, where they began planting coffee in the fertile hillsides on the island.
During the Great Depression, the Gaviñas began roasting coffee, which would become the cornerstone of their business model for decades to come. The rise of the Fidel Castro regime would force the family to abandon Cuba, relocating first to Spain and then to California. By 1967, the Gaviñas were again in the coffee business, this time with a roasting facility in Vernon, a few miles southeast of Downtown Los Angeles.
Today, the third generation, born during the postwar baby boom, and the fourth generation, including purchasing director Michael Gaviña, lead the privately-held company, which employs close to 300 workers and supplies coffee to grocery stores and restaurants, including McDonald’s Restaurants in the southwest U.S., as well as local Orange County establishments such as Porto’s Bakery and Café, Spaghettini in Seal Beach and 7 Leaves Café, which is also a member of the Center for Family Business. The company roasts more than 44 million lbs. of coffee each year.
“Many consumers know us from our brands, which include the food service brand Gaviña, the grocery brand Don Francisco’s, the Costco brand Jose’s and Café la Llave,” says Michael Gaviña. “This year, we are marking our 50-year anniversary with the opening of our first coffee shop location in Downtown Los Angeles, which we hope will exude the ambiance of a family store.”
About Coffee Production
Gaviña Coffee is grown at locations throughout the global coffee belt, including Hawaii, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, East Africa, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
“Coffee tends to be grown in the world’s vacation spots,” says Michael Gaviña. “High altitude is particularly important, because the cooler temperatures allow the coffee bean to absorb more sugar and acid from its cherry base, so it has more flavor.”
Requiring a tropical climate, Gaviña says successful coffee production is difficult in the continental U.S., even including Florida. However, small-scale farming is being attempted in a few spots, like California’s Santa Barbara County.
Advice on Family Businesses
Gaviña believes family businesses are an excellent opportunity, though he encourages students or alumni who are part of family operations, or considering starting such a business, to get some experience in the broader world.
“Create policies that clearly define the mutual expectations between the role of family employee and the business,” he says. “These policies are a great way to mandate prerequisites such as education and experience. For example, I would recommend that incoming family members work outside of the business before entering. I didn’t have the opportunity to do this, but a couple of my cousins did and they gained a lot from working outside of the family company,” he says.
While enthusiastic about the opportunities available to family businesses, Gaviña notes that there can also be challenges, requiring a balance between simultaneous family and corporate roles.
“Knowing how to speak in a given situation and respect the boundaries between emotion and pragmatism can be difficult,” he says. “On the other hand, the advantage is that you see your family every day and forge a strong bond. It is a special feeling to come to work and feel like you are at home. Plus, family members tend to be very passionate, engaged and vigilant, which is invaluable to a business’ success.”
Gaviña says he has gained an understanding of the importance of value systems through involvement with the Center for Family Business.
“Values are at the core of what builds your business,” he says. “People choose a brand because there is some value behind it, whether it is superior quality, financial savings, efficiency, taste or workmanship.”
For More Information
For more on F. Gaviña & Sons, including coffee facts, recipes, online ordering and career opportunities, visit them online.
The Center for Family Business offers regular speaker events educating family businesses on a wide range of topics and sponsors a course for Cal State Fullerton students and the broader community, MGMT 335 – Family Business Dynamics. For more information, visit them online or stop by the office at SGMH 5284.