Mr. Coffee co-founder Vincent Marotta, who forever changed the way your office makes a cup of joe, died on Saturday at this home in suburban Cleveland. He was 91.
Marotta and his co-founder, high school friend Samuel Glazer, launched North American Systems, Inc., the corporate arm of the Mr. Coffee brand, in 1972. The drip-coffee brewing system was created to replace the tired percolator. Up until the early '70s, the percolator was the brewing system of choice--but its technique of recycling the same water to brew the third or fourth cup of coffee left many java drinkers complaining of a bittter, watered-down taste. Mr. Coffee's drip coffee technology found a loyal following because it produced restaurant-quality coffee in less time, according to the New York Times.
Business took off for Marotta in 1973, when he convinced Joe DiMaggio to become a spokesman for the brand. In a 2005 interview with NPR, Marotta said that he met a guy in Clevland who had DiMaggio's home telephone number, and he decided to give the baseball legend a call. DiMaggio declined the offer to be Mr. Coffee's spokesman. However, the next day Marotta and his wife flew out to DiMaggio's home city of San Francisco and tried calling him again--this time, they received a "yes" from Joltin' Joe.
Despite its expensive price tag of $39.99 ($226 today), North American Systems sold more than a million units by 1975. According to the Associated Press, Marotta and Glazer sold North American Systems in 1987 for $182 million.
In recent years, the brand's iconic drip-coffee technology has been eclipsed by the increasing popularity of single-serve coffee machines, like the Keurig. To compete, Mr. Coffee's now-parent company, Jaden Consumer Solutions, launched the Mr. Coffee Single Serve Brewing System in 2010.
For his part, Marotta never got back into the coffee business after selling Mr. Coffee--he instead focused on real estate and philanthropy, according to the Times.