Your Stories: The JFG Family

5:48 PM, Jul 31, 2013   |    comments
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When you think JFG two things come to mind: Coffee and Knoxville.  While JFG is no longer owned by the Goodson family,  their legacy in coffee continues on in East Tennessee.

Bean after bean is roasted to pure perfection.  Whether it's Arabica or Robusta, it doesn't matter. The Goodson Bros. Coffee Company takes equal care of each. They know a thing or two about coffee.

CEO James Franklin Goodson's great-great-grandfather started JFG back in 1882 in Morristown. It was part of a wholesale grocery business. "He bought coffee in five pound pales from a company called Arbuckle in New York, turned out to be the original Maxwell House," said Goodson.

After his death, Mr. Goodson's great-grandfather Floyd "Bud" Goodson took it over. "He didn't like the wholesale grocery business so he sold that and stayed in the coffee business and named the coffee JF Goodson Special, which evolved into JFG Coffee over time," explained Goodson.

He also moved the company to downtown Knoxville. For decades it was a successful company known for good coffee. "We had a tremendous following. We sold about 80 percent of the coffee that was sold in a 100 miles of Knoxville," said Goodson.

Then tragedy struck. "My father was the president of the company in 1964 and he died in a plane crash," explained Goodson.

Bud was devastated and sold the company in 1965, but a young James was slowly learning the ropes. "I started working at JFG in the summers when I was barely 13 years old. I worked in the shipping department loading trucks," stated Goodson.

And after some time away, he got back in to coffee making. "In 1979 we started Goodson Bros. with five employees," said Goodson.

More than three decades later, their business model is strong and so is their coffee. They do contract work for big time coffee brands. "We roast, grind and package everything. The bulk of our customers send us the raw materials and then we just do it to their specifications," said Goodson.

But now something else is brewing and it involves a kick-back to the old JFG days. Using roasters named after famous family members, Mr.Goodson's mom Betsy, his dad Floyd and his grandfather Bud, the business is blending under their own name.

"We're bringing the whole family history including the pets along," said Goodson. Their brews are packed full of fresh grounds and family flavor.

Goodson's grandfather did get to see what he was doing before he passed away. "He came down and watched us roast. He gave me a dollar a pound once for the coffee. He said that was all it was worth," explained Goodson.

Goodson hopes now his answer would be different. "I hope they think I'm doing a pretty good job. If I can do as well as they did, I'll be alright. I've got a ways to go," said Goodson.

You might still notice the JFG brand is all over the place. It is owned by Reily foods based in New Orleans, but they do all of the JFG manufacturing here in Knoxville.

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