Beaner’s To Drop Name Some See As Derogatory

Jeremy W. Steele, Lansing State Journal, September 15, 2007

Acknowledging its name can be mistaken for an ethnic slur, Beaner’s Coffee is making a change.

The coffee chain founded in a former Arby’s restaurant on Grand River Avenue in East Lansing told franchisees Friday it will gradually move to the name of Biggby Coffee by Jan. 31, 2008, said Bob Fish, chief executive officer.

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“Names do hurt. What we realized is we had a name that unintentionally hurt people,” he said.

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Fish said he’s received questions about the Beaner’s name over the years.

The phrase is considered a derogatory term used against Hispanics.

But the company has never been faced with a lawsuit, picketing or request to rename itself, he said.

“As we looked around, we decided we’d always be answering those questions,” Fish said. “We’d rather be talking about coffee.”

The new name will open the doors to customers and franchisees who might have been turned off by the name Beaner’s, Fish said.

As the coffee chain expands, it is entering markets with larger Hispanic populations.

There are more than 44 million Hispanics in the United States, making it the largest minority group, according to population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Beaner’s sales are expected to reach $30 million this year, Fish said. All of the chain’s stores are franchisee-owned.

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The corporation will pick up the $1 million tab to replace signage and other items carrying the Beaner’s name, he said.

Franchisees interviewed at a company meeting Friday praised the move as “the right thing to do,” despite trading in years of name recognition in the Lansing market.

“The company has done a great job of branding the ‘B,’ so Biggby was a natural,” said Deb Kirchen, the company’s longest-running franchisee, with five stores in the Lansing area.

Although she liked the Beaner’s name, Kirchen said: “I liked my maiden name, too. It changes.”

Many existing customers likely always will call the chain by the Beaner’s name, said franchisee Steve Antaya, who operates the Portland store inside Tom’s Food Center.

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