William Jameison grew up in Rhinebeck, and worked much of his life in restaurants: first in Rhinebeck and Kingston, and later down in Florida.
He and his wife, Alexandria, met while opening the Flying Fish Café, a restaurant in Walt Disney World. They married, had two kids, and lived for a decade-and-a-half in Florida, before moving back to the Hudson Valley about 10 years ago. William now manages Rhinebeck Wine & Liquor, while Alexandria works as a teacher with immigrant and refugee children in the Albany area.
The couple had purchased their morning cup o’ joe from JB Peel, a long running, small batch coffee company in Red Hook (favorite brews: Ethiopian Yirgacheffe and the Tivoli Roast). So when Alexandria noticed a tiny for-sale flier last winter in the store, the Jameisons reached out.
Owner, roaster, and proprietor Gil Klein, it turned out, was very sick, and in the last stages of a battle with cancer. Klein, a roaster and flavored-tea maker in California, had founded the company in 1989 with its namesake, Jeremy Peel, a Kenyan-born Englishman who had grown up on a coffee plantation and who wanted to move into full-time roasting. Peel passed away in 1991, leaving Klein to develop and grow the business into what it is today, making custom blends for local restaurants and generally pioneering house-roasted coffee at a time when such things were not terribly common on the east coast.
William Jameison had previously tried his hand at roasting his own coffee beans “with little home roasters on the back porch,” and so he and Alexandria were very interested. Between banks, family, and personal assets they scraped together enough money to purchase JB Peel from Klein in February 2019.
The store closed for a few days, and for a period the Jameisons worked with another roaster to bring them up to speed. Longtime employee Julie Berdnik proved indispensable in both the roasting and the day-to-day activities. “She really carried us,” says William. When it comes to such a long-running and beloved local institution, customer expectations have been sky-high. “Everybody likes their coffee a specific way,” he says. “People have been enjoying it for years and years. It’s been a challenge for us.”
The Jameisons have been branching out into lighter coffees (like their medium-light Brazil Santos, a mellow, single-origin roast), seasonally flavored blends, and organic beans. They’ve also condensed the physical footprint to one storefront, and have redesigned the website so that those who can’t stop by the store can shop for their favorite roast.
“We’re following what our customers are asking for,” says William.