- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 19, 2004

Juan Valdez, the poncho-wearing symbol of Colombian coffee, is brewing his way through the United States with a new cafe.

The Juan Valdez Cafe made its U.S. debut in Washington last week on F Street in Northwest. It’s the first of hundreds of locations expected to open worldwide over the next several years. A second U.S. location is expected to open in New York on Sept. 28.

“People are looking for new experiences in coffee,” said Gabriel Silva, chief executive of the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, which is made up of 560,000 Colombian coffee growers. “We wanted a closer relationship with the consumer.”

In the face of dwindling sales of coffee in a can, the federation developed a strategy for global expansion that would include the cafes and coffee machines at retail locations.

The first cafe opened in Colombia in December 2002. Since then 11 more have opened there with sales exceeding Mr. Silva’s expectations. He hopes to have the same success in the United States.

Expansion plans call for 300 locations worldwide by 2007 and sales to reach $350 million. Locally, cafes are expected to open in Bethesda and Alexandria. Two locations are expected to open soon in Seattle — the home of coffee giant Starbucks, which has thousands of locations worldwide.

“We are not aiming to compete with Starbucks,” Mr. Silva said.

He is confident that once consumers go into the Juan Valdez cafes, they will be turned onto a whole new brew. The cafes will offer nine varieties of Colombia coffee.

In addition to the cafes, Target will start featuring single-serve Juan Valdez coffee machines in October.

“This is just another way to bring people closer to Colombian coffee,” Mr. Silva said.

Falling into travel

Americans are expected to hit the road more this fall both for leisure and business than last year, according to a recent forecast by the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA).

Americans will take 278 million person trips during September, October and November — an increase of 3.1 percent over last fall. A person trip is one person traveling one way 50 miles or more from home.

“Consumers’ pent-up demand and corporate America’s healthier bottom line are merging to create a ripe environment for the travel market,” said Suzanne Cook, TIA’s senior vice president of research.

Business travel, which hit a slump after the September 11 terrorist attacks, is recovering.

TIA says Americans will take 43.2 million business person-trips this fall — a 3.4 percent increase over the same period last year. That’s still far below the high seen in fall 2000 when 47.9 million business trips were taken.

In other news…

• The Hilton Washington Dulles Airport Hotel is undergoing a $31 million renovation and expansion. The 300-room hotel in Herndon will add 155 more guest rooms and another 9,600 square feet of meeting space for a total of 35,000 square feet. The 18-year-old hotel, which has 210 employees, will add another 30 to 40 employees when the project is complete in September 2005.

• Spanish tapas restaurant Jaleo, with locations in the District and Bethesda, has opened a third location in Crystal City.

Donna De Marco can be reached at 202/636-4884. Retail & Hospitality runs every other Monday.

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