In wake of founder’s death, family decides to close business

It’s just before noon and Roman Baltram doesn’t have time to chat. As soon as he takes a seat, the phone rings or a customer strolls into Sivetz Coffee.

One caller orders a 50-pound supply of roasted Sumatra coffee beans. Baltram haggles with another over his price for coffee roaster parts.

“Well, you take a few days to think about it,” he says as he hangs up. “We’ll still be in business until the end of the month.”

Sivetz Coffee Inc. founder Michael Sivetz, a renowned coffee expert and inventor, died in March at the age of 90, and his family has decided to close the shop. Baltram has managed his father-in-law’s business with his wife, Martha Baltram, for the past five or six years as Sivetz progressed in age.

Locals know Sivetz Coffee as the place to buy roasted beans or to order the perfect cup of coffee.

However, since opening its doors in 1981, the bulk of the business has been in the back — where coffee roasters, invented and patented by Sivetz, are assembled and shipped to wholesale coffee distributors all over the country.

Sivetz’s roasters use a technology that maintains a more precise temperature level, which Sivetz has credited with improving the taste and roasting the beans in about half the time as traditional roasters.

Housed in an old church on Southwest Fourth Street and Adams Avenue, the business has grown in fame in the coffee world, which can only be traced back to Sivetz’s intense — and sometimes militant — taste for perfection. The man had precise procedures for everything. And he had very little patience, Baltram said, for those who couldn’t follow his directions.

Wholesale coffee distributors will now have to find another place to buy their roasters.

“The one that just called wants a quarter-bag — a 38-pound roaster,” Baltram said between customers and phone calls. “He’s got two shops, one in Baltimore and one in Pittsburgh, and he’s opening another one. And he wants a larger roaster.”

Since Baltram has the parts in inventory, he plans to build it. But there won’t be many more.

Local coffee drinkers are also disappointed in the business’s closure. Customers are getting coffee while they still can.

“If I freeze it, it should be able to last a few months,” Dan Blythe said as Baltram took his order. “I’m stocking up on it.”

Baltram doesn’t generally have to ask customers what they want when they come through the door. Blythe, a customer for about five years, shows up weekly for the same bag of roasted beans. There is Jerry Marshall, who always gets a large decaffeinated drink and has been frequenting the shop daily for more than a decade. About every week Honor Hoover drops by to pick up a bottle or two of liquid coffee extract — a sort of instant coffee — that she uses to make iced coffee drinks.

Then there is Donna Kuttner, a diehard Sivetz fan who explains that coffee is an integral part of her life. Since she moved to Portland 11 years ago, she has travelled to Corvallis about every three months in order to continue purchasing the premium roasted beans.

“When we discovered Sivetz, that was it,” she said, referring to herself and her finicky husband. “I honestly don’t know how I’m going to cope. All other coffee is too bitter to drink.”

Though Sivetz Coffee is closing and even its 1930s-era building is up for sale, Baltram is working with a few potential buyers to help a new business carry on the Sivetz tradition of serving quality coffee. A potential buyer would use a Sivetz roaster and would purchase beans from the same supplier.

“We have a local person who has talked about buying that 50-pound roaster,” Baltram said, pointing to the 28-year-old machine in the retail side of the store. “He’s in town here and he’s known this business for a long time.”

(4) comments


I've been a loyal customer for about 12 years and there is no coffee like Sivetz. Hate to see you go. Thanks for the many years of wonderful coffee!


Didn't see any mention as to what will happen to the building. Does the business own it and will they sell?



"... even its 1930s-era building is up for sale... "


I miss Michael.I met Michael in Philly more than 15 yrs. ago and bought a 1974 Sivetz model for a business venture in connection with Univ. of Texas.We had such fun times with it and with him, especially when it caught on fire. Michael was a genius of course and didn't hesitate to say,"You know you're calling me at 2 AM.! You'd better send that machine to me" Poking fun he often said,"Aren't you guys lawyers or engineers? (laughing)" Well we all loved him in our business adventure for his energy, his wit,his appropriate anger, but most of all his dedication.By the way he was one never to treat us any differently than he treated anyone else based on corporate size.That says alot especially today.Best wishes to his family for their dedication esp. his daughter.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.