Mike Sheldrake has been roasting and selling coffee on the west end of Second Street for 44 years under the name Polly's Gourmet Coffee.
No more. Sheldrake unveiled a new name and logo this week, and began operating as Sheldrake Coffee Roasting.
"People have associated us with Polly's Pies since 1989 (when Sheldrake bought the coffee business from Polly's)," he said Monday. "Now that some of the pie shops are closing, people are coming up and offering their condolences… Some people have been coming here for years, and didn't even know we roasted coffee here."
Sheldrake has been associated with Polly's Pies since he was in high school and started working at one of the restaurants. He stuck through college, and turned it into a career.
"They wanted to have control of their own coffee," Sheldrake said. "I was the coffee geek in the chain, so they told me to learn it, and I started running Polly's Gourmet Coffee here in 1976."
On-site roasting started just three years later, when a 15-kilo Probat coffee roaster, built around 1929 in Germany, was shipped to the United States. The rest, Sheldrake says, is history.
"We want to emphasize that we have fresh-roasted coffee here every day," Sheldrake said. "And I'm being told we aren't connecting with the younger generations. They don't relate to Polly's Pies — their grandparents might, but they don't."
Sheldrake's new logo retains a historic feel, with a sketch of the master roaster himself next to the roasting machine. He sells whole roasted coffee beans by the pound online, and had been providing coffee to restaurants before the coronavirus pandemic hit.
"The wholesale market has tanked," Sheldrake said. "I was worried about the retail, too — I haven't sold anything inside the shop since March — but our sales are actually up by 12%. That's coffee through a window."
Coffee chains, led by Starbucks but including Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Peet's and now Philz Coffee, long have targeted Belmont Shore as a prime market. Sheldrake said he has persevered with a simple philosophy.
“I learned this early on from someone I respect,” he said. "Let others worry about the competition; I worry about the customers."