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Hills Bros

Our Story

Shipbuilder Austin Hills, Sr., along with his two sons, Austin Herbert and Reuben Wilmarth, sail from New England to California. Once settled, young Austin and R.W. (few called him Reuben) sell coffee, tea, extracts, and dairy products in a Bay City Market stall. Their market location blossoms into a full-fledged retail store called Arabian Coffee and Spice Mills on Harrison Street.

R.W. Hills, a very passionate tinkerer, stumbles upon a process that removes air from coffee packaging- resulting in fresher beans. Known as ‘vacuum-packing, R.W.’s discovery is the most widely used packaging method to this day. A young artist named Briggs offers to create a company trademark. His design, the ‘coffee taster’, is inspired by the coffee’s Ethiopian origin, is welcomed by Austin and R.W. A life-size statue is still present at the Hills Bros. San Francisco building.

Hills Bros Coffee

The Red Can Brand of Hills Bros. Coffee is introduced. Roasting operations move into the landmark brick structure along the Embarcadero. During World War II, the packaging changed from metal to glass containers. Coffee stockpiling becomes widespread and Americans are limited to one pound every five weeks due to rationing. Hills Bros. surges eastward into New York. Rapidly, New York state and all of New England are asking for Hills Bros. coffee. The famous Hills Bros. Coffee sign, which can be seen over the waterfront along the Embarcadero, remains a National landmark. The packaging is redesigned to pay homage to the San Francisco heritage. It features cheerful illustrations of Bay Area icons and landmarks as well as a new tagline – A Taste of San Francisco.

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