Baker, Ahles & Kaskovich

A new Farmer Brothers corporate headquarters is brewing across from speedway

Rendering of new corporate headquarters, manufacturing and distribution facility to be built in Northlake across from the Texas Motor Speedway on the east side of I-35.
Rendering of new corporate headquarters, manufacturing and distribution facility to be built in Northlake across from the Texas Motor Speedway on the east side of I-35.

The coffee will be on near the Texas Motor Speedway next year — lots of it.

Farmer Brothers, which makes and supplies coffee to restaurants, hotels, casinos and many other food-service providers, has officially begun its relocation to North Texas from Torrance, Calif. It has opened an interim headquarters off Westport Parkway near Alliance Airport, where executives will have their offices as the company builds a sprawling headquarters complex across from the speedway. (The company’s stock trades on the Nasdaq under the symbol FARM.)

Top executives gathered with civic leaders at the 28-acre Northlake site last week for an official groundbreaking. The 537,000-square-foot facility will stretch east from Interstate 35W to Ashmore Lane, north of Texas 114, with the corporate offices fronting I-35W.

The complex will include 100,000 square feet of manufacturing space, where coffee beans from some 30 countries will be roasted and packaged, as well as 300,000 square feet of distribution space.

CEO Mike Keown said the company has about 50 employees at its Alliance offices and should have more than 100 there by the end of the year. When the Northlake complex is open, it is expected to employ at least 300, with more hiring likely in future years, Keown said.

“It’s going to be a really cool facility,” he said. About 400 worked at its 55-year-old facility in California, which is being shuttered.

The location of the greenfield site along I-35W was crucial in its selection, Keown said. Long a West Coast company, the century-old Farmer Brothers has expanded in recent decades across the country, so a location in the central U.S. was favored. Corporate customers include Target, HEB and Nordstrom Cafes.

After a nationwide search, Keown said Farmer Bros. settled on the DFW-Oklahoma City corridor and then looked at some 25 sites in the Metroplex before deciding on six finalists, most in the Alliance area. Tax incentives from Denton County and Northlake helped sweeten the deal for the site near the speedway.

Keown is splitting his time between California and Fort Worth as the company continues its transition. He said he expects Farmer’s senior leaders to all be in North Texas by the first quarter of next year.

So will we be able to one day smell coffee brewing as we drive by on I-35W?

Through a spokesman, Keown said “there may be a wonderful light fragrance of coffee in the immediate area” but not beyond.

So how low will gas go?

The idea that gas prices are on a slide to $2 a gallon or less is no longer a shocker. Last week, AAA Texas reported that the statewide average for unleaded gas dropped 5 more cents to $2.38, which is 91 cents less than what Texas motorists paid a year ago.

The national average that day was $2.61. a slight uptick from earlier in the week when the prices had slid downward a record 26 days. Prices went down 19 cents a gallon over that time.

Then AAA said an oversupply of oil, refineries running at record levels and a weakening of the Chinese economy would provoke “notable declines leading up to the Labor Day holiday.”

It all seemed to back up what analysts have said — gas will dip below $2 by fall.

But a survey by the National Association of Convenience Stores says motorists don’t believe it.

While 25 percent expected fuel prices to decrease over the next month, 20 percent thought it would break the $2 barrier and 51 percent said sub-$2 gas is “very unlikely,” including 72 percent of consumers in the West where gasoline prices have remained higher.

Why so glum, chum?

“I think the thing is that consumers are cautiously optimistic,” said Jeff Lenard, vice president for strategic industry initiatives for the NACS. “They will believe it when they see it. The drop in gas prices has been fairly recent.”

He said the West Coast is a weird animal because of pollution controls and the lack of oil refining infrastructure. The average price for gas in California was $3.58 last week. And typically, it takes a big event, like the 2008 economic meltdown, to trigger a big drop, Lenard said.

If gas prices “drop below $3, they [California drivers] will be happy,” Lenard said. Max B. Baker

Roanoke Cinemark opens

Plano-based Cinemark Holdings has opened a 14-screen theater in Roanoke featuring Cinemark’s NextGen cinema design concept, lounger recliners and expanded dining options, along with beer, wine and frozen cocktails.

The theater, 850 E. Texas 114, showcases wall-to-wall screens, enhanced sound systems, and digital presentation in every auditorium, including a Cinemark XD: Extreme Digital Cinema auditorium. Several of the theaters will be RealD 3D capable.

Other amenities include a cafeteria-style concession stand with expanded dining options and a party room for birthdays and celebrations.

Cinemark operates 503 theaters with 5,720 screens in the U.S. and Latin America. It bought a 10-acre tract for the Roanoke location in 2013 and planned a 2015 opening.

Uniform testing at American

American Airlines is giving its new uniforms a second try.

The Fort Worth-based airline will conduct a four-week “wear test” of the uniforms for pilots, flight attendants and gate agents starting Sept. 28. Ground crews will try out their uniforms this winter.

American hired fashion designer Kaufmanfranco in 2013 to develop new uniforms. The first prototypes featured double-breasted suit jackets for the pilots and monochromatic gray sweater jackets for flight attendants. But employees who tried them out this year said they were too drab and ill-fitting and gave some pilots allergic reactions.

The newer set of uniforms came after employee committees submitted feedback on “wings, name bars and crest designs,” the company said in an employees newsletter on Thursday. They also include a pop of color in a red, white and blue scarf, which had been suggested by flight attendants, and cobalt details for a wrap dress. And instead of a lighter slate gray, the uniforms are a dark, charcoal gray.

Employees got a sneak peek in Dallas/Fort Worth last week.

“Sharing our feedback made a big difference,” employee Cynthia White said in the newsletter. “After seeing the items today — especially the new blazer — I am so excited for the upcoming wear test.”

After the wear tests are completed, American expects to have the new uniforms available for employees in late 2016.

Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7631

Twitter: @Sky_Talk

Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727

Twitter: @SandraBakerFWST

Steve Kaskovich, 817-390-7773

Twitter: @stevekasko