Historic brand Old Judge Coffee returns to downtown St. Louis

Old Judge Coffee, a St. Louis brand that started in 1858, is back at Laclede’s Landing, as reported by Feast. Real estate development firm New Legacy Partners purchased the Old Judge Coffee building at 710 N. Second St. in an effort to bring business to the once thriving riverfront district. 

“Their heyday was really the ’40s and ’50s when they were doing 3 million pounds a year, but they fell out of production in the late ’80s or early ’90s and hadn’t really been a major brand since ’60s or ’70s,” said Old Judge Coffee owner David Messner. “Old Judge is back, and the coffee is excellent. I am focused and committed to growing this brand in St. Louis.”

Old Judge's coffee, hot chocolate and tea are available for purchase on the website. The iconic, wide-awake owl has been slightly redesigned and has a fresh new look on mugs, T-shirts and other merchandise items. 

Dubuque Coffee Co., an artisan roaster based in St. Louis, is the manufacturing arm of Old Judge Coffee. “It’s not just Dubuque coffee with an Old Judge label; it's a different roast and a different bean blend than Dubuque,” he said. “We’re letting the guys who know how to roast coffee do that, and we’re stewarding the brand.”

The company has also partnered with another historic brand, Bissinger’s, which was acquired by Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate last year, to make their hot chocolate. “We want to form bonds with old St. Louis companies to expand our brand,” Messner said. “My intention is to work with as many local artisan partners as possible to really use this Old Judge brand to be both collaborative and promote other Midwest businesses as well. Any local artisan shop should reach out to us – we would love to work with anybody and everybody.” 

Messner said to keep an eye out for a new mocha ice cream coming soon. “We are actively looking for a partner to do a mocha ice cream for us,” he said.

Messner moved to St. Louis from California five years ago with business ventures in mind. New Legacy Partners, which Messner runs with his partner Brian Minges, is working to revitalize Laclede’s Landing by bringing in restaurants and retail experiences. They have made significant investments in the area’s infrastructure to create a neighborhood feel. “It will be bright, it will be safe, it will be community,” Messner said. 

Next steps for Old Judge include an in-person coffee shop – hopefully in the historic building – by spring 2021, as well as expanding into retail at places like Schnucks, Dierbergs and Straub’s. Old Judge Coffee was a standard in Midwest grocery stores for many decades, and Messner hopes it will be again. “If you want to see us in retail, you should order online because that’s how we prove the demand,” he explained.

Old Judge antiques can be found in many St. Louis homes, and the brand plans to make good on the collectability of its merch. Along with the T-shirts and mugs, artisan goods like handmade beeswax candles are also sold on the online store. Messner welcomes requests for old products to be brought back, as well as ideas for new products. 

“We’re working to develop a new interpretation of the Old Judge tins, so hopefully we will have those ready by the holidays,” he said. “I knew there was this latened nostalgia. It was Old Judge in the morning. Our goal is to continue that high level of fidelity in the brand.”