For over 60 years, Deco Restaurants always boasted that their coffee was "Buffalo's Best Cup of Coffee". But why? What set Deco's coffee apart from the hundreds of other restaurants in the Buffalo and Western New York area.? In the '40s, Deco put out a small pamphlet that was located at the counter of every restaurant telling every customer just why their coffee was the best. The pamphlets were free for the taking and were also distributed with every carry-out and home-delivered order. To hear Deco tell the story...
"Many years ago, Deco worked hand in hand with coffee growers direct from the plantations to perfect a blend of coffee that would be highest in quality. The many test that were conducted were attended by plantation growers, coffee experts, scientists (!) and even Green Coffee brokers. The results of these tests produced a truly rich blend of coffee."
"The tests were held in brokerage houses in New York, and finally, all agreed that we had a rich, smooth blend. The coffee samples were then delivered to Buffalo and the tests started all over again. These tests were much different than the ones held in New York. The coffee did not taste as good as it did on prior tests. Through continued research we found that the difference in Buffalo water completely changed the rich smoothness we originally had."
A good piece of P.R., or the real truth? According to Gregory Deck Jr., son of the founder of Deco Restaurants, every bit of that is indeed true. In the 1930's, Deco wanted to have a truly good cup of coffee. Those in charge of seeing to the fact that Deco HAD that coffee went to the coffee brokerage in New York and tested and blended many different beans until they got what they thought was a superb cup of coffee. It had a nice nutty flavor and the aroma was out of this world.
Armed with the magic blend, the Powers That Be returned to Buffalo and made a pot of the coffee and, according to Deck Jr., it was "really awful!" After they stood around and gave each other puzzling looks, it dawned on them that Buffalo's water was the culprit. Armed with this information, they bottled up gallons of the city's water and returned to New York and began testing and blending until they got something very close. Upon returning to Buffalo, they were ready to introduce the city to "the Best Cup of Coffee."
Now we come to another symbol of Deco's coffee - the "jelly jar" glass for take-out coffee. Even though the Decos were known for their great diner atmosphere - you know, sitting on stools or in a booth - they did a huge take-out business. No matter where a Deco was located, the stores and businesses that were served by the Deco always sent their secretaries in around coffee-break time. Since most of these businesses didn't have a coffee machine of their own, they depended on Deco coffee and doughnuts to make it through 'till lunch time.
Every day around 10:30 or 11:00 in the morning, the secretaries would go into a Deco with a huge list for 35 coffees, four sweet rolls and so many doughnuts. "We went bananas filling these orders," says Gregory Deck Jr.. "The only problem was that we didn't have Styrofoam cups in those days, only paper cups. So what happens to coffee in a paper cup is that it takes on the flavor of the paper. People were always saying, 'Boy, what lousy coffee!' This was the case no matter where people got their take-out coffee, including us."
"We took a good look at this problem because it was defeating our purposes for creating an excellent cup of coffee if people couldn't get it to go. I said to everyone, 'You know, glass doesn't give any flavor. Why don't we use a glass jar for the take-out coffee and put a deposit on it so that we would get it back?' So in the '50s, we designed a small glass jar, put a nickel deposit on it and this solved the flavor problem. Now we had to deal with getting the jars back."
The idea of serving the coffee in a glass solved one problem, but created a few others. The coffee was extremely hot and it was very difficult to grab the glass with a hot beverage in it. So everywhere you went you would see people walking around with Deco take-out coffee wrapped in a paper towel. The next problem was the fact that the glass jars were an immediate hit. They were so popular that nobody wanted to give the glasses back to receive the deposit. It was daily chore for Deco employees to take a walk to some of the surrounding businesses to retrieve the glasses. Imagine their dismay when they found the glasses filled with pencils, art supplies and plant clippings.
So if you are one of the lucky individuals who still have a Deco coffee glass, hang on to it. You have a priceless treasure.