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The billboard that changed history: The story of Nuova Simonelli Distribution

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BELFORTE DEL CHIENTI, Italy — The 1960s in North America were nothing if not a brazen time. From political uprisings to free love and crushed velvet bellbottoms, risks were being taken everywhere. The world was wide open to those with nerve, foresight and lucky guesses.

Tommaso Bresciani was among those with nerve—a born entrepreneur in an era that would bring new products and cultural experiments to the masses.

The Vancouver B.C.-based company he started with his brother Remo, Espresso Coffee Machines, was so successful that it became a nationally recognized distributor in just a few years. Business occasionally took Tommaso to Italy.

On one such trip in the early ’70s, he drove past an enormous sign near a freeway exit, directing drivers to the Nuova Simonelli espresso machine factory. (The same sign remains there today.)

“He was intrigued enough to put his car in reverse on the freeway, having passed the exit, and went straight to the factory”, says Roberto Bresciani, Tommaso’s son.

Tommaso Bresciani, a pioneer of professional coffee machines in North America

“When he walked in he met all three owners: the late Graziano Boldrini, Sandro Feliziani and Nando Ottavi”. Tommaso ordered 10 machines on the spot and became the first to take Nuova Simonelli espresso machines out of Italy. “He liked the people, and the machines were innovative, even then. They trusted my father and his past business success. A strong personal friendship developed”, says Roberto.

Fast-forward a decade: ECM made Nuova Simonelli the top espresso machine brand in Canada, as it remains today. After years of continued success in Canada, Tommaso felt he could do better yet. He suggested a joint venture between ECM and Nuova Simonelli — creating one distribution company for the U.S., Canada and Mexico. “The owners at Nuova Simonelli liked the idea”, says Roberto. “My father was already their biggest customer, so why not take on two more countries with him?”

And so, Nuova Distribution was born in 1992, with Roberto joining the company while still in high school.

While Nuova Simonelli machines enjoyed a solid reputation and customer loyalty in Canada, growth outside its borders was not without challenges.

Nuova Distribution found the U.S market fragmented among multiple importers, which created inefficient delivery and service, and machines that were therefore expensive. “We met a demand, but we had to build a lot of name recognition and a network of dealers an service providers”, says Roberto.

But Nuova Simonelli still had an advantage: Direct ownership of distribution in North America in partnership with ECM, which provided localized experience and thus optimal exposure to the North American market.

“This partnership allowed us to tailor the equipment to the market”, says Roberto.

“And since North America sets the trends for the global specialty coffee industry, Nuova Simonelli had a head start in emerging markets, which they have capitalized on”. For example, North America started the trend toward large, milk-based beverages in the 1990s. Typical Italian machines did not have enough steam production or reliable and ergonomic steam systems to do the job properly, so Nuova Simonelli adapted to that demand early on with leading-edge boiler technology. “To this day, Nuova Simonelli’s steam system is considered the best by top baristas”, says Roberto. The company’s recently patented “cool-touch” wand furthered that reputation. Brew temperature stability and tall-cup groups are other features created for the North American market.

Roberto Bresciani (Nuova Distribution North America) with his father Tommaso, the founder of the family business

But perhaps the most pressing demand of the North American market was simply building a robust, reliable espresso machine. Roberto enthuses: “For generations, espresso machines had a reputation for being temperamental and unreliable. But Nuova Simonelli has changed that”.

Also aiding company growth was the landmark development of the Aurelia that clinched Nuova Simonelli’s first stint as World Barista Championship espresso machine sponsor in 2009. “The world thought a single-boiler machine couldn’t be temperature stable”, says Roberto.

“But the Aurelia had so much science behind it that it took the world by storm when it passed the WBC temperature trials, showing that it was in fact more stable than a double boiler machine”.

And the successful partnership between Nuova Simonelli and Nuova Distribution continues. Their espresso machines remain reliable and groundbreaking, with the new Victoria Arduino 388 Black Eagle’s gravimetric technology. The latest news in coffee grinders is the Mythos One with Clima Pro Technology. The first thermal stability study was started by Roberto Bresciani and then developped in collaboration with Nuova Simonelli technical team. It was another success, thanks to decades of practice, and some brazenness.