Coffee Fest Show is the first client I landed for Chalkboarder, a
company I founded early in 2009, that provides social media strategies and other services. The following is an Open Letter to members of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, distributed by Chalkboarder on behalf of our valued client, Coffee Fest.
~~ Jeffrey J Kingman, CEO, Chalkboarder

Excerpt

Open Letter to SCAA Members from Coffee Fest Founder Alan

Dear SCAA member,


Hopefully you recognize the name, Coffee Fest, the specialty coffee industry’s top retail trade show, consistently providing retailers with relevant information and new products to hone their business skills and up their bottom line.


I am writing to you today to ask you to consider the decisions the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) is making in servicing you and the specialty coffee industry across America as a whole. The management of SCAA is vigorously negotiating with the city of Seattle to produce the SCAA annual convention for six out of eight years in Seattle beginning in 2014.



We support the SCAA on the many good things they do for the industry and we have worked closely with them for all our years in business. We never have and never will encroach on the region in which they produce their annual show. If the SCAA came to Seattle once every 5 years, we would have no concerns. Coffee Fest has been produced in Seattle on an annual basis since 1992, for nineteen years. While Coffee Fest certainly doesn’t own Seattle, we do object to the SCAA’s plan to all but permanently locate here and expect that given the details and facts, you may object too.


Read more here on Coffee Fest's Slideshare document sharing site
. After consultation with Matt Milletto, owner of Barista Exchange, the decision was made that there is positive input to be discovered from all those interested in this matter. Please discuss with good humor :) Jeffrey

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This might be a naieve question but couldn't Coffee Fest and SCAA do a joint show in Seattle? There might be some synergies that each party would bring to the table. That could be one heck of a show, you know? If both parties work on bringing their strengths to bear on the enterprise rather than worry about how they could be vulnerable or harmed then both might end up stronger, more focused, and better able to serve their constituents/customers. And the market could end up with a better sense of who each are and what each of them do.

For the market and potential exhibitors it could be good as well. There would be no question as to what the "big show" was going to be. I know from experience that planning for a "big" show is a major undertaking and the local logistics are a large percentage of the hassle. If there was a joint "big" show each year in Seattle then people could get those local logistical relationships ironed out and the local Seattle vendors would be used to what was required and be able to offer excelent services at a reasonable price to new exhibitors as they would have a solid understanding of what was needed. Thereby lowering the barrier to exhibiting at the "big" show to new companies. The additional regional Coffee Fests might end up more focused and useful as a result and able to serve a more specific clientele in the process.

I have no vested interest either way save for the fact that I am located in Seattle. I would ask the same question if the city in question was Las Vegas, New York, Atlanta, or Memphis. Again, it could be a naieve observation but I thought I'd throw it out there anyway.
Mike Sabol said:
This might be a naieve question but couldn't Coffee Fest and SCAA do a joint show in Seattle? There might be some synergies that each party would bring to the table. That could be one heck of a show, you know? If both parties work on bringing their strengths to bear on the enterprise rather than worry about how they could be vulnerable or harmed then both might end up stronger, more focused, and better able to serve their constituents/customers. And the market could end up with a better sense of who each are and what each of them do.

For the market and potential exhibitors it could be good as well. There would be no question as to what the "big show" was going to be. I know from experience that planning for a "big" show is a major undertaking and the local logistics are a large percentage of the hassle. If there was a joint "big" show each year in Seattle then people could get those local logistical relationships ironed out and the local Seattle vendors would be used to what was required and be able to offer excelent services at a reasonable price to new exhibitors as they would have a solid understanding of what was needed. Thereby lowering the barrier to exhibiting at the "big" show to new companies. The additional regional Coffee Fests might end up more focused and useful as a result and able to serve a more specific clientele in the process.

I have no vested interest either way save for the fact that I am located in Seattle. I would ask the same question if the city in question was Las Vegas, New York, Atlanta, or Memphis. Again, it could be a naieve observation but I thought I'd throw it out there anyway.
Mike The idea of combining the two shows has been discussed, but unfortunatly it won't work. The problem is we share many of the same vendors and if we split the revenue neither of us come out in the black. That is actually the crux of the problem. Vendors will have to choose which show they will exhibit in because it does not make sense for them to come to the same city twice a year and two years in a row.
Interesting. Hadn't heard this yet.

For the record, I appreciate the support that Coffee Fest has provided this community. Thanks, guys.

I can certainly understand the SCAA wanting to find a way to simplify and cost-reduce such a large annual event. Negotiating to reduce the cost of the space that is used seems like a smart plan, and I'm not sure how you do that without making a multi-year deal. With such a large concentration of coffee industry in the Pacific Northwest, that seems like a logical choice region. Lets not forget the ready availability of highly-qualified instructors for the classes.

Personally, location is somewhat a factor. I attended the Atlanta Expo since it was close. I did not attend this year because it was in Anaheim. I do plan to attend in Houston, and appreciate that it is a little closer to home. HOWEVER I would still hit it next year if it was in Seattle.

That said, the big negative for me is that I'd hate to think that the Southeast would go 10 years without an Expo.

Would this move, should it occur, actually reduce attendance from the far corners? Maybe and maybe not. Companies would have to re-think their strategy, and may well travel when they wouldn't have in years past. Why not adopt an every-other-year approach if you knew it was going to be closer to home next year?

Mike, the co-event is a neat idea, but I doubt either party would go for it. Coffee Fest is probably no more interested in sharing the proceeds of their big event than the SCAA is. Money, money, money...

On another point, its kinda funny that Coffee Fest's practice of not scheduling a show in the same city as Expo is claimed as being out of the goodness of their hearts. Perhaps it really is, but it seems to me like its also good business. Not sure exactly how much credit they ought to ask for for this "courtesy".

Looking forward to other voices.

I guess in a nutshell, I'm not going to object to this plan. I like Seattle.
Alan, I think I understand what you are saying but at the risk of sounding like a real "country bumpkin", couldn't Coffee Fest and the SCAA partner to do a single show in Seattle? Instead of running two "separate but equal" conventions where the exhibitors would have to choose where their bread was buttered they would form a joint venture partnership and produce one really big show and pull from both sides? They split the expenses and the revenues. The exhibitors and attendees's get a huge boost of confidence that they have chosen the RIGHT SHOW TO ATTEND and/or EXHIBIT. If both Coffee Fest and SCAA are confident in what they have to offer and concentrate on bringing to the table those strengths where they are different and do not overlap then you could create one helluva show that had real appeal to a really broad swath of the coffee world. Think about it...

Imagine monster truck voice here:

"Seattle Coffee Con, The Specialty Coffee Association of America and Coffee Fest have teamed up to turn the Washington State Convention Center into a GIANT KNOCK BOX!".....

C'mon guys. There has got to be a way to get there from here.
Mike- Your not entirely wrong, but I want to add one other piece for you to digest. The SCAA drew 58% of their attendees from Calif. to their Annaheim Conference. Other than the large contingent of growers from South America and elswhere it is basiclly a regional show. If it were held in Chicago or somewhere in the middle of the country it would have more of a contenental appeal. But I will give more thought to it......because you are evidently a passionate guy and your reasons are sensible.



Mike Sabol said:
Alan, I think I understand what you are saying but at the risk of sounding like a real "country bumpkin", couldn't Coffee Fest and the SCAA partner to do a single show in Seattle? Instead of running two "separate but equal" conventions where the exhibitors would have to choose where their bread was buttered they would form a joint venture partnership and produce one really big show and pull from both sides? They split the expenses and the revenues. The exhibitors and attendees's get a huge boost of confidence that they have chosen the RIGHT SHOW TO ATTEND and/or EXHIBIT. If both Coffee Fest and SCAA are confident in what they have to offer and concentrate on bringing to the table those strengths where they are different and do not overlap then you could create one helluva show that had real appeal to a really broad swath of the coffee world. Think about it...

Imagine monster truck voice here:

"Seattle Coffee Con, The Specialty Coffee Association of America and Coffee Fest have teamed up to turn the Washington State Convention Center into a GIANT KNOCK BOX!".....

C'mon guys. There has got to be a way to get there from here.
Hi Everyone,

There seems to be some confusion about the frequency which the SCAA Event would take place in the PNW, so I've included below a response from our current SCAA President, Peter Giuliano from a thread on our Facebook page:

"The decision of where to locate our annual Event is a difficult one, which the board takes very seriously. So here's are some points:

Over the next 9 years, the SCAA Event will be in Seattle 4 times. The rest of the years will be spread out over the rest of the United States including Houston (next year) and 2 TBA east coast locations. So, it's actually spread out pretty evenly across the U.S. for the next decade, actually very similar to the past decade.

Now, everyone loves it when the SCAA comes to their hometown, but the fact is that that it is more and more difficult to find good cities. The way things stand now, there are only a handful of cities that can handle our show (our show is unusual; we need to roast and brew coffee for example, and we need a very high ratio of classroom space for all of our educational classes). Cities like New York, D.C., Chicago and San Francisco aren't well suited for us, are super expensive, and frankly aren't that attracted to our Event.

Seattle is a great city, and they have presented a very attractive offer to us. This option will free up resources- in both money and time- that the SCAA intends to use towards more and better regional events. So, ironically, this actually makes it MORE likely that you will have an SCAA event in your backyard! I am an owner of a coffee company on the East Coast myself, and I actually think this is a great thing for the East Coast's coffee community. Heck, we think it's a great thing for the entire country's coffee community.

I'm here to answer any questions or concerns you have.

Peter"


If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at info@scaa.org. You can also visit the SCAA Blog to read more about our future Exposition locations and a more detailed response regarding Seattle being a city of choice.
Tara- You and Peter are contributing to the confusion. The letter of intent from the SCAA to the Seattle Conventoion & Visitors Bureau put a hold on 6 years, starting in 2014 to 2021, with two years absence. That is 6 years within 8.

Tara Shenson said:
Hi Everyone,

There seems to be some confusion about the frequency which the SCAA Event would take place in the PNW, so I've included below a response from our current SCAA President, Peter Giuliano from a thread on our Facebook page:

"The decision of where to locate our annual Event is a difficult one, which the board takes very seriously. So here's are some points:

Over the next 9 years, the SCAA Event will be in Seattle 4 times. The rest of the years will be spread out over the rest of the United States including Houston (next year) and 2 TBA east coast locations. So, it's actually spread out pretty evenly across the U.S. for the next decade, actually very similar to the past decade.

Now, everyone loves it when the SCAA comes to their hometown, but the fact is that that it is more and more difficult to find good cities. The way things stand now, there are only a handful of cities that can handle our show (our show is unusual; we need to roast and brew coffee for example, and we need a very high ratio of classroom space for all of our educational classes). Cities like New York, D.C., Chicago and San Francisco aren't well suited for us, are super expensive, and frankly aren't that attracted to our Event.

Seattle is a great city, and they have presented a very attractive offer to us. This option will free up resources- in both money and time- that the SCAA intends to use towards more and better regional events. So, ironically, this actually makes it MORE likely that you will have an SCAA event in your backyard! I am an owner of a coffee company on the East Coast myself, and I actually think this is a great thing for the East Coast's coffee community. Heck, we think it's a great thing for the entire country's coffee community.

I'm here to answer any questions or concerns you have.

Peter"


If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at info@scaa.org. You can also visit the SCAA Blog to read more about our future Exposition locations and a more detailed response regarding Seattle being a city of choice.
Bravo! i think it's a fabulous idea, especially now that Peter G. has clarified the intentions of the Association. Instead of moving coast to coast every year, now there are additional opportunities for the Association to spread out and as Peter suggested, this actually makes it more likely for the SCAA event to be in our own backyards- given, of course, that the Association does not choose to stagger the Long Beach location too often in conjunction with Seattle.

I, for one am looking forward to the opportunity of the SCAA being closer to (my) home.

Sandy
Andrew

I am not in my office now and therefore do not have all the figures in front of me, but according to Ric Rhinehart approximatly 3,000 of that attendance number are exhibitors, which I do not count as attendees. This is all besides the point though. I am not as concerned about attendance but more concerned about exhibitors who have voiced their concernes about going to the same city twice in the same year two years in a row, 6 years within 8. That is why it does not make sense. They will be forced to choose. The Allied Committee (made up of exhibitor members)of the SCAA has voiced their opposition to this plan, but the Board is not listening.

Sandy Hon said:
Bravo! i think it's a fabulous idea, especially now that Peter G. has clarified the intentions of the Association. Instead of moving coast to coast every year, now there are additional opportunities for the Association to spread out and as Peter suggested, this actually makes it more likely for the SCAA event to be in our own backyards- given, of course, that the Association does not choose to stagger the Long Beach location too often in conjunction with Seattle.

I, for one am looking forward to the opportunity of the SCAA being closer to (my) home.

Sandy
Great discussion folks. As a SCAA member I'm on the edge of my seat paying close attention to all that is said here.

Andrew Hetzel said:
So, let the exhibitors choose!

Again, I fail to see why the SCAA membership should be concerned if you have to move your show from Seattle in order to make your money. SCAA members should act in the best interest of the association that they collectively fund and support through substantial donations of time, labor and products, not some 3rd party for-profit company. Give us each a ownership stake in Coffee Fest, then we will share your concerns.

On the other hand, offer an event of greater value than the SCAA's Exposition and those same exhibitors may choose your Seattle event and there will be a big shake up at SCAA. That's business, right?

Coffee Fest has events running all over the country, in other countries (Hong Kong, etc.) and even one out here in Hawaii next year, you've got plenty of regional coverage to offer exhibitors. Weren't there also cruises? You can literally bring a boatload of exhibitors to attendees in any port of call.

With all of those other venues, you should have plenty to offer your exhibitors that will not conflict with the best interests of SCAA. If not, I still do not see what the SCAA membership has to lose.

Alan Silverman said:
Andrew

They will be forced to choose.

so is it 6 times in 8 years or 4 times in 9 years? could we get some clarification on this? tara?

and if it's going to be on the west coast, i think seattle is ideal. way better than the other options, as long as it alternates around the country. if we're looking at 6 seattle expos in the next 8 years, though, i call shenanigans

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