Innovative Thinkers

The Aroma of Artisan Success
Working as a child in a ravioli factory owned by a neighbor and later opening a 24-hour fruit stand of his own, Joe Paris admits food is a big part of his culture. Paris learned at an early age how to recognize the needs of customers and decided that he wanted to devise a way to fulfill them. By putting his buying and selling knowledge to use, one thing led to another and in 1983 Paris and his brother opened a specialty foods company in Kansas City known today as Paris Brothers, Inc. 
The company, which began as a small wholesale popcorn company, soon added its first product extension–extra virgin olive oil. Believing that high-quality products should not just be a specialty item, but rather a household staple, led Paris Brothers, Inc. to be the first company to bring both extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar to the shelves of grocery stores in the Midwest. Extra virgin olive oil was just one of the many product extensions Paris and his brother added to their company. Today Paris Brothers, Inc. imports, manufactures and distributes nearly 4,000 artisan foods throughout the region. 
In addition to contending with constant pressure to keep rising prices low, Paris has also seen a growing trend of consumers wanting to know where the products they buy come from. Taking pride in the artisan component of all the products they sell, Paris believes that the key to a quality product is in understanding its original source. 
“Our business isn’t just buying and selling,” Paris says. “We understand it, and we know it–including the people involved.”
A constant challenge that the company faces is educating people about their products and getting people to believe in them. Artisan production ensures that small family farm practices were used in developing the end product. 
“Anyone can do commodity,” Paris says. “We want to provide products that people can enjoy and experience.” 
Paris Brothers, Inc. used the same artisan philosophies when they decided to add a coffee extension to their business in 2006, known as simply Parisi. Looking for hands-on experience, Joe Paris personally traveled to Brazil, where he became friends with both coffee growers and experts alike and learned about the coffee process from “grounds up,” ultimately becoming an expert in the supply chain. 
Overseeing all aspects of the production process allows for a much better understanding of the product and supply chain. The difference between a bag of coffee that costs approximately $18 per pound and one that costs $10 per pound is in the efficiency, which comes from personal involvement and understanding of processes and development. Delivering the highest quality product to as many people as possible at a reasonable price is what Joe Paris believes in. 
Taking the company one step further, Parisi Artisan Coffee chose to create and market their products with the Eco World Family Farm label. This label not only signifies artisan production, but also identifies companies that socially and environmentally benefit the community in which the product is sold. Parisi is also a major supporter of both Fair Trade and organic coffee farms. Buying Fair Trade coffee is just one way that Parisi can make sure a percentage of profits earned can be relayed to support the farmers who have grown and harvested the beans. 
“Looking through their eyes, a little money goes a long way, and being able to help other people in the process is really kind of nice,” says Paris. 
Paris Brothers, Inc. also gives back through major fundraising. A current eCommerce fundraising effort allows customers to make coffee purchases online to benefit nonprofit organizations. 
Entrepreneur. Risk-taker. Artisan. That’s Joe Paris.

words: Devin Maxey
photo: Chad Hickman