Barista Magazine

APR-MAR 2014

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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Page 102 of 107

After three years of planning and work kept secret from Piero, the staff unveiled a replica of the original La Marzocco "shop win- dow" van. The first van, built on an Alfa Romeo motor and chassis, was designed by Piero's father, but was lost in an accident in the 1960s. Created in the exact likeness of the original van, the repro- duction—revealed on the first night of the OOTB event—brought Piero to tears. He spent the duration of the party that followed the van's presentation behind the wheel, talking for hours with the engineers and mechanics who built it. Piero and his wife, Giovanna, never had any children—which is perhaps part of the reason he insisted on nur- turing La Marzocco's family environment. Most people who work in the factory in Italy work there for the entirety of their careers, not only because the work is rewarding but also because the atmosphere is so friendly. I've been lucky enough to visit and tour the factory before, from the remarkable showroom packed with vintage La Marzoccos; to the hum- ming research and development department; to the floor, where machines are put together by hand, piece by intricate piece. Touring at Piero's side, however, is totally different. Every con- traption has a story, and every person, a special history—he tells me them all. It's dizzying. We linger on the veranda overlooking the Tuscan countryside, and he begins to talk about Kent—Kent Bakke, that is, who is Piero's busi- ness partner and, for all intents and purposes, his brother. Kent traveled from Seattle to visit La Marzocco's headquarters for the first time in 1978. "This gave way to a fruitful commercial relationship with the U.S. which was further developed," Piero says. Their friendship flour- ished, as well, and the relationship between La Marzocco and Kent resulted in exponential visibility in the United States. When Piero's father passed away in 1987, however, Piero's world changed dramatically. He suffered a heart attack a year later, and his doctor attributed it to Piero's intense workload and stress level as he assumed responsibility after his father's death. "I began reflecting on what I could do to ensure that La Marzocco would continue doing business, especially in light of the fact that the company had been founded by my father, with- out being affected by [health] problems," he says. "I initiated negotiations with Kent about the option of selling the company, making it pos- sible to continue doing business in the future. I was not so much interested in the financial gain as in the life of the company itself, in the future of the employees, the continued use of the fac- tory building itself, the brand, etc. In 1994, we reached an agreement, transferring the majority of the company shares to Kent himself." Meanwhile, Starbucks was knocking on La Marzocco's door. Kent had forged a relationship with the famous coffee business already, and it was asking for more and more La Marzocco machines. "At that time, the company produced and sold a limited number of machines per year, and none were in stock," Piero says. "At the same time, Starbucks was growing very rapidly, making it difficult to maintain our business with them." Thankfully, Piero and Kent understood the importance of keep- 103 B o o k 5 5 - 8 8 . i n d d 1 0 3 Book 55-88.indd 103 3 / 1 9 / 1 4 1 0 : 1 2 P M 3/19/14 10:12 PM

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