Red Diamond

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Red Diamond Inc. is a a beverage producer founded in Birmingham by William Donovan in 1906 and currently headquartered at 400 Park Avenue near Moody. The current president, Bill Bowron Jr, is the fourth generation of his family to work for the company.

The name first appeared in 1906 as the label for coffees and teas packaged by the Donovan Provision Company. The demand for coffee and tea led Donovan to focus on that facet of the business, changing the company name to Donovan Coffee Company. The name of the company was changed again later to feature the popular Red Diamond brand label.

The 1955 fire at the Red Diamond building

The company operated from a four-story brick building on 1st Avenue North downtown. One Saturday in October 1955 the Red Diamond building burned to the ground. Other roasters allowed Red Diamond to use their facilities in off hours until they could re-open at 1701 Vanderbilt Road in the Vanderbilt neighborhood.

1960s Red Diamond television ad

In 1956 William Bowron took the helm as president and CEO. Over the next decades he oversaw Red Diamond's transition to wholesale delivery and the company's expansion into a national presence. The company also introduced several innovations to the coffee and tea industry, including gallon-size teabags, decaffeinated tea and "brick pack" vacuum-packed coffee. Red Diamond was also a pioneer among coffee distributors for its use of radio and television advertising. From 1962 to the early 1970s, Jim Henson's Muppet characters "Wilkins and Wontkins" appeared in ads for Red Diamond Coffee (as well as for other regional brands around the country). In the late 1960s, Red Diamond switched its distribution from their own sales representatives to an independent broker service.

In 1991 Bowron and his wife, Shila bought controlling interest in the company, heading off a planned takeover by the Donovan family. Kent Donovan eventually moved to Royal Cup.

As of 2006, Red Diamond employed 165 people. They planned to add 40 employees by expanding their facility, but negotiations with Jefferson County to purchase the Jefferson County Motor Fleet building, adjacent to Red Diamond's operations on Vanderbilt Road, stalled. Subsequently, Red Diamond announced that they would build a new facility near Moody in St Clair County. In January 2007 the Birmingham City Council rejected a proposal from Red Diamond to provide services to the city. Councilor Roderick Royal exclaimed that "Red Diamond stabbed this city in the back, and I don't intend to support any company that stabs this city in the back." Bowron later disputed Royal's appreciation of the facts that led the company to move.

On April 22, 2009, Red Diamond held the grand opening of its 65-acre campus near Moody. The business made plans to expand its product line and hoped to become the country's second-largest tea company by 2012. In 2015 Red Diamond partnered with the Buffalo Rock Company to distribute its coffee and tea in three Southeastern states. In 2017 the company sold its Red Diamond Foodservice division to Gordon Food Service of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

References

  • Wright, Barnett (August 6, 2006) "Red Diamond may leave Jeffco". The Birmingham News
  • Rountree, David (September 8, 2006) "Red Diamond deal lacks only ink on paper." Birmingham Business Journal
  • "Red Diamond, Inc." (January 2007) Birmingham Then & Now Special Promotion. Birmingham Magazine. Vol. 47, No. 1, p. 129
  • Bryant, Joseph D. (January 24, 2007) "Red Diamond bid rejected by council." The Birmingham News
  • Thornton, William (November 16, 2008) "William Bowron, Red Diamond executive, dies." The Birmingham News
  • Jarvis, Crystal. (April 22, 2009.) "Red Diamond opens new Moody facility." Birmingham Business Journal
  • Williams, Roy L. (December 1, 2009) "Red Diamond brewing up growth plans, CEO says." The Birmingham News
  • Poe, Kelly (October 18, 2015) "Buffalo Rock to distribute Red Diamond Coffee, ending 30-year partnership with Maxwell House." The Birmingham News
  • West, Ty (June 8, 2017) "Red Diamond food division to be acquired." Birmingham Business Journal

External link