Ozone Park coffee company targets Starbucks

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"We want to be No. 1 in coffee drinks," Trachenbroit says. "Starbucks has done a fantastic job. You can't knock them. But you always root for the underdog."

The latest thing to happen to the 35-year-old bleached blond is a deal with the New York division of mega-drink distributor Coca- Cola Enterprises Inc. that just may make his dream come true.

Trachenbroit is president of a new coffee beverage company, Planet Java, which is set to take on the mighty Starbucks chain after partnering with Coca-Cola. Starbucks' Frappuccino drinks are distributed solely by Coca-Cola's main competitor, Pepsi.

"I went from having no stores in New York City to having 13,000 stores in New York City carrying Planet Java," says Trachenbroit, casually dressed in a black sweatshirt and jeans on a recent afternoon. "Coca-Cola has been amazing."

Trachenbroit and about a dozen Planet Java employees work out of a second-floor office above Dallis Brothers, a 90-year-old coffee roasting plant on Atlantic Avenue in Ozone Park run by three generations of Dallis family members.

The roaster provides Planet Java with "high-quality coffee," as Trachenbroit puts it, and Planet Java, with its bright colors and eye-catching graphics, provides Dallis Brothers with "imaging."

"We have what they don't have and they have what we don't have," he says.

The logo for Planet Java is an animation-type image of planet Earth dunking itself into an orange cup of coffee, set against a midnight blue background filled with stars. The name is catchy and familiar-sounding so that even if people have never heard of the company, they think they have, Trachenbroit says.

Dallis Brothers roasts the coffee and Planet Java buys it to sell in the trendy cafe below its second-floor offices. Coffee beverages, with a retail price of $1.19, are sold at the cafe as well as at more than 13,000 stores throughout the metropolitan area, Trachenbroit says.

Planet Java beverages come in three flavors, Tremble, Javachino and Milkywave. Tremble is known as the highest calorie beverage on the market today, Trachenbroit says.

After signing the deal with Coca-Cola several months ago, Planet Java altered its look slightly by reducing the bottle from 15 to 9.5 ounces - enough to satisfy but not stuff, Trachenbroit says - and cleaning up its already vibrant colors to make the bottles more distinct from one another.

"The first thing people are drawn to is the imaging. Graphics are what bring the people in," he says. "But the second thing is the taste. It has to taste good."

Planet Java plans to start opening up stores to compete with Starbucks but is focusing for now on the Coca-Cola deal, Trachenbroit says. It also hopes to start selling coffee on the Internet.

After that, the sky's the limit for Trachenbroit and his college buddy from SUNY Plattsburgh, Frank Carfora, who is in charge of imaging and graphics.

"Me and Frank are dreamers," he says. "We've just got to keep growing the business."

Updated 7:08 pm, October 10, 2011
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