Fogbuster Coffee Works, formerly Pierce Brothers, celebrating 30 years in business

Sean and Darren Pierce of Fogbuster Coffee Works, pictured in their Greenfield warehouse, are celebrating 30 years in business.

Sean and Darren Pierce of Fogbuster Coffee Works, pictured in their Greenfield warehouse, are celebrating 30 years in business. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Master roaster Jacob Christi fills the air roaster with coffee beans at Fogbuster Coffee Works in Greenfield.

Master roaster Jacob Christi fills the air roaster with coffee beans at Fogbuster Coffee Works in Greenfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Nikko Sciandra grinds roasted beans for packaging at Fogbuster Coffee Works in Greenfield.

Nikko Sciandra grinds roasted beans for packaging at Fogbuster Coffee Works in Greenfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

By ANTHONY CAMMALLERI

Staff Writer

Published: 05-02-2024 3:33 PM

GREENFIELD — Three decades ago, Sean and Darren Pierce, two brothers in their mid-20s, decided to start selling coffee — a business venture that was funded by a roughly $30,000 mountain of credit card debt.

Today, the Greenfield-based Fogbuster Coffee Works, formerly known as Pierce Brothers Coffee Roasters, has grown to sell its signature air-roasted coffee throughout the Northeast.

Touring his warehouse facility at 47 Silvio Conte Drive on Wednesday, Darren said he and his brother, who grew up watching their father grow his therapy practice, dreamed of starting their own business together. Darren, who worked in cafes and high-end restaurants in California, realized the gourmet coffee business was lacking on the East Coast. Aside from the Coffee Connections chain, which Darren said had roughly six locations in Massachusetts in the 1990s, most of which were being purchased by Starbucks, the high-end coffee business had not yet gained footing locally.

“I was in the restaurant business, and cappuccinos and lattes were unheard of in the area. Coffee on the East Coast really sucked back then,” Darren said. “Our business plan was one page: ‘Get account, sell coffee, make money.’ It was so far off.”

After realizing the business was more challenging to enter than they had suspected, the brothers began buying bulk loads of coffee from California to sell in New England. They spent a few years shipping coffee in from California for $1 per pound and selling it at events and kiosks at colleges before opening what Darren referred to as the first drive-thru coffeehouse in New England on Amherst Road in Sunderland. The all-in-one roaster facility, live music cafe and wholesale location also showcased the brothers’ signature air roaster.

As opposed to conventional coffee bean roasting, the air roasting process completely removes each bean’s outer husk, removing the burnt taste from the coffee. This process, Sean explained, gives the coffee a smoother, more dynamic flavor, whether it’s served hot or cold.

“When you’re creating cold brew coffee, you’re really concentrating it and soaking it over time,” Sean said. “What happens, though, is you’re pulling those negatives. When you concentrate coffee, if your coffee is better, you’re concentrating better. And so our coffee starts out so smooth that when we concentrate it down to a cold brew, it’s still just as smooth.”

Fogbuster’s current Greenfield location, which the brothers have occupied for seven years, produces a wide array of coffee products, including canned cold brews, beans sourced from around the world, ground coffees, and “frac pacs” or pre-packaged coffee ground bags that are capable of brewing large pots of coffee at a time.

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At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company transitioned from its original plan to throw a large block party unveiling its rebranding from Pierce Brothers Coffee Roasters to Fogbuster Coffee Works, to struggling to stay open while in-person businesses closed throughout the country. Darren said the pandemic forced the company to expand its retail distribution, a business goal he said he would like to continue growing over the next few years.

“We’re always still just looking to the end of the goal. It feels like it’s just the beginning. I love working with my brother — we’ve gone through our trials and tribulations, but we shared a room growing up, we always played sports together and it’s nice working with him,” Darren said. “Our sister Nicole worked for us on-and-off for 30 years, our older sister Michelle has worked for us, our parents have done deliveries for us, our wives used to drive around with screaming babies and do all the deliveries for us. It’s been slow progression, but I love it.”

Anthony Cammalleri can be reached at acammalleri@recorder.com or 413-930-4429.