LRL: What was the first change you made?
JQ: Ukers had a Publisher’s Creed which took up about a quarter of the contents page and which included such admonitions as ‘Damage no man’s reputation, but if he chooses to discredit himself, it is your duty to expose him.’ In the 1950s, we felt that we needed a simpler creed, something that made sense to us. I wanted us to be known as publishers of integrity who tell the truth and respect the rights of others. Our goal was not to tell the trade what to do, so we tried to do a good job of telling them what they had done and give them a platform to say what they intended to do. And that is far more difficult than it sounds.
LRL: And you had writers to cover the coffee and tea industry around the world?
JQ: Yes, there were writers covering major ports or capitals. For instance, Jack Brooks was our London correspondent. Later, his daughter, Yvonne Winch took over. She had a strange phobia - she was irrationally afraid of crowds.
LRL: How could she write about these industries if she was afraid of crowds?
JQ: I was not aware of Yvonne’s phobia until she was with us in New York for five or six months waiting for her father to recover from an accident. He was about 90 years old by then. Only then was I aware of it when she told me that she couldn’t attend a meeting because there were to be a dozen people present. She developed a personal interview style, often working over the phone to develop a story. Later in life, she seemed to be cured of it, but in the meantime she developed into a perceptive writer with a light touch.
LRL: Who else wrote for you?
JQ: There were many others covering major ports or capitals, such as New Orleans, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, Bombay, Calcutta and so on. We had a correspondent in Santos, Brazil, whose name was L. M. Peppercorn. During Ollie Simmons’ tenure as publisher, he wangled a trip to Brazil. He wrote to the correspondents in Brazil asking for contacts, and Peppercorn sent back a long, detailed account suggesting what people Simmons should contact. At the end of the letter, was a sentence that read, ‘By the way, I am a female.’
You’ve got to understand that Jack Phillips and I were young and thought of Ukers, Simmons and Yvonne Winch’s father, Jack Brooks, as something from the Stone Age. So we got quite a kick out of Simmons dilemma.
LRL: What did he do?
JQ: Ollie Simmons brooded over this for a few days before he finally said to me, ‘Jim, I think you’d better go instead of me. It would be a great experience for you.’
LRL: So you went to Brazil instead?
JQ: Yes, and Lisa Peppercorn was no more amused about the whole thing than Simmons was! I first met her in Rio and she introduced me to many people influential in the Brazilian coffee trade. She was an exceptionally bright woman who seemed to have developed a knack for advancing and retreating and then disappearing in what had always been strictly a man’s world. She told me that using the name Lisa rather than her initials would have ruined her acceptability. As it was, she was well known and respected throughout Brazilian journalistic circles.
LRL: Where in Brazil did you travel?
JQ: We were being taken to areas damaged by a severe frost. The Brazilians wanted the press to see the extent of the damage. But I didn’t anticipate how closely we would get to see it! How well I remember flying a few feet above the ground in a four-seater plane that seemed terribly out of date. The pilot knew I was terrified and he decided to amuse me, amuse himself and amuse our friends on the ground. As we were flying over the damaged trees, I was supposed to ask him any questions I had. Of course, he spoke no English! It’s amazing how quickly we learn to communicate when we find it necessary.
LRL: Speaking of language, with such a diversity of correspondents, did you receive all of your articles in English?
JQ: Before I arrived at the Journal, it had become affiliated with a translating service. When stories arrived in another language, they were put in an envelope and sent over to the service, then returned to us in English. On one occasion an annual contributor got his material garbled in the process and blew his top. Our arrangement with the translation business gradually diminished after that. It is not an easy process.
LRL: I guess you’ve met a lot of interesting people in the industry.
JQ: When I arrived on the scene in 1951, the green coffee business was centered on Front Street in downtown Manhattan - just off Wall Street, with the New York Stock Exchange and the world’s leading banks blocking the sun a few blocks away. Our office was between the two, on the corner of Wall and Pearl. It wasn’t unusual to see a coffee trader walk down that one block with a tray of green coffee beans and get three or four bids on the full shipload based on that sample.
LRL: How did that work?
JQ: There were occasional claims that a bad sample had been purchased. But every case was settled by arbitration with no court action. It was very exciting to be so close to all the activity. In those days, it seemed like everything was happening right there along Front Street. Entire shiploads of coffee and tea changed ownership several times during the week before and after the arrival of the vessel in New York
LRL: I guess that, like today, you had to attend industry meetings to stay abreast of what was going on.
JQ: During the late 1960s, most of the people in the business of coffee and tea were bankers. Can you imagine, at one of the NCA conventions, there were 17 bank vice presidents!
LRL: Did you hire Jane Phillips McCabe?
JQ: Yes, I had that privilege! She just celebrated 22 years with the Journal. She came to work for us in 1979. I hired her as an associate editor to see how she would work out, then when she did, promoted her to managing editor. Under Jane’s guiding hand, the Journal found strength. And, as a result, advertising flowed in. I’m sure that hiring Jane was my wisest decision ever. We always worked exceptionally well together. Jane was my alter-ego until I left.
LRL: It sounds like you worked well together.
JQ: Yes, but we had our moments too. On one occasion, Iris Solow, the advertising manager, and Jane were going out to the Pacific coast for a coffee convention. Jane had made the reservations with her family travel agent and they had to leave on a 7:00 a.m. flight out of Newark. They were both very young and I was very heroic - I wanted things to be right for them and had offered to take them to the airport. So we left before dawn and when we got to the airport, there was no gate man or anything that would suggest the flight. When it got to be 6:30 a.m. and still no one knew about the flight, Jane went over to a desk to inquire and discovered that the flight took off at 7:00 that night! We were 12 hours early for the flight!
Now this was a Sunday morning and I could have brained her! But she got away from me in a hurry and went off to call the travel agent. But, of course, at 7:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning that agent was nowhere to be found.
Iris and I sat down and there was not a word between us. When Jane re-joined us she had scheduled the first flight out to a California city with a connecting flight and then a rental car to get them to the Pacific Coast Coffee Association Convention.
I will say that Jane was loyal to me, my wife, the magazine and the industry. Loyal is the word I would use to best describe Jane.
LRL: Do you stay in touch today?
JQ: Yes, we share a lot of stories about working together. Jane does a remarkable job of getting out a first class magazine.
LRL: You followed in the footsteps of your mentor by publishing your own book on coffee.
JQ: Yes, mine was called Scientific Marketing of Coffee and was published in 1960. Shortly after I came to work for the Journal, Mr. Ukers gave me a copy of All About Coffee so I could ‘know all’ without asking too many questions. After reading it, I told him it was a most marvelous book, except that the section on marketing was out of date. He hit the ceiling! After I received my MBA, I drafted an extended version of the chapter on marketing. Mr. Ukers had since passed away and John Phillips and I discussed the marketing section as a separate book. Eventually it was published.
LRL: What is your impression of the coffee industry today?
JQ: It seems a lot healthier than when I was involved. Back in the 1960s, it definitely took a downturn. You can see it on the import charts - before 1963 the charts go up, up, up then it hits 1963 and they begin to go down, down, down. The consumption of coffee hit its peak, then went down every year after.
But that seems to be changing today. Now there are coffee stores all over the country, but drinks like cappuccino would never have sold 20-25 years ago.
LRL: You mentioned attending NCA conventions, were you involved with the formation of the SCAA?
JQ: I would like to have been. But it was being formed just as I sold the publication to the Lockwoods and retired. Jane was much more involved with the SCAA during our last years before Lockwood.
LRL: What year did you retire?
JQ: 1987. I believe I left the Journal in capable hands. The Lockwood brothers had grown up in publishing, their father was a publisher. Potential buyers had approached me for years, but when the Lockwoods came along, I thought it was time to leave and I felt comfortable about leaving it with them. They are very competent. With their background in publishing, they do things in a way that would never have occurred to me.
LRL: Did you enjoy your years at the Journal?
JQ: When I came to the Tea & Coffee Trade Journal, I intended to stay for a year or two and then move on. But people in the trade treated me very decently and with far more respect than I had experienced in my previous jobs. I got along well with Ollie Simmons, the publisher, and Jack Phillips, the vice president. I never left because there was never any place else I wanted to go. In fact, I loved it at the Journal. How could I leave? They loved me - and I loved them.
LRL: No regrets?
JQ: Between my education, my teaching at New York University, my four years in the military during World War II first in Europe and then the Philippines, and my work at the Journal, I have had an interesting life with no regrets.