In the January 21st issue of Delaware’s The News Journal, writer Gary Harbor profiles coffee businesses that are thriving around the State in the article No Ordinary Joe, including our friends at local chain Brew Ha Ha!.

A local chain grows

In 1993, Alisa Morkides opened Brew Ha Ha! coffeehouse in Greenville.

In 14 years, Morkides, a one-time financial analyst, has grown the chain to $5 million in annual sales and 12 locations in Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

In November 2006, Morkides made the leap into the competitive Philadelphia coffee market, opening a store at 12th and Chestnut streets in Center City, half a block from Starbucks and Cosi, a casual dining chain that also sells premium coffee.

Business in the City of Brotherly Love has been so brisk, Morkides, 50, has signed a deal with city officials to put one of her cafes in a pavilion the city will build at 16th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway. She expects to open there later this year.

The coffee competition brewing among giants Starbucks, McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts doesn’t faze Morkides.

“The only way to respond is to not be part of that battle,” Morkides said. “I’m looking to set Brew Ha Ha! apart rather than adding a whole bunch of stores, and we’re going to do that on the basis of the quality of the experience.”

To compete, Morkides is adding more food items to her menu and beefing up Brew Ha Ha!’s coffee offerings, including French-pressed coffees and Cubanos, an espresso sweetened with brown sugar.

The booming market for specialty coffee is part of the same cultural phenomenon that spawned high-end chocolates, Morkides said.

Consumers, she said, are seeking a more sensual food experience, attracted by something hand-crafted rather than mass-produced.