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Wednesday, May 10, 2000

Distributor to
purchase Lion Coffee
and expand

Paradise Beverages plans to
close the deal within a week
and keep all workers

By Tim Ruel


A Waipahu company is about to close a deal to buy Lion Coffee, and said it already has plans to expand the business outside Hawaii.

Paradise Beverages Inc., a liquor and beverage distributor, plans to buy Lion Coffee within a week, Chief Executive Officer Mike Shibuya said today. He would not disclose terms of the negotiations, but said the roasting and distributing operations would remain in Hawaii.

Shibuya said he did not know whether Lion's three retail stores in Honolulu would remain open.

Once the deal is done, Paradise would hire all of Lion's 53 full-time employees, starting June 19.

Paradise Beverages, which already is Lion's main distributor, employs about 300 workers and is owned by a California company, Toba Equities Ltd.

Retooling and expanding the company outside Hawaii could lead to big profits, Shibuya said. The market for premium coffee has grown in recent years, he said. Moreover, the 15 stores opened in Hawaii since 1996 by Seattle-based Starbucks Corp. has increased the demand for premium coffee in Hawaii, he added.

When Starbucks announced its arrival in Hawaii, Lion immediately released five new coffee blends to hold on to the market. Shibuya said he did not think Starbucks' operations had hurt Lion, however.

Lion Coffee entered Hawaii in 1979 after a long history, having opened originally in Ohio in 1864.

James Delano reintroduced the brand when he opened Lion Coffee here in 1979.

Delano, Lion's president, declined to give details on the pending sale yesterday.

Lion has its headquarters and a retail store in Kalihi. It also has stores on Queen and Merchant streets.

The company told the state Labor Department that when the deal closes it would lay off its work force but that Paradise planned to pick up all the employees.

Lion Coffee

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