Gaggia, one of the historic pioneering names of espresso coffee and a familiar brand throughout the British catering industry, has suffered the closure of its British base.
According to the Halifax Courier, the brand's headquarters in the town was ‘suddenly shut down', with 30 staff reportedly out of work as the company appeared to be on the verge of going into administration.
Although ultimate ownership of the Gaggia brand name had changed some days previously, with the manufacturer Saeco being acquired by the Dutch electrical giant Philips, it was thought that this deal would not affect the privately-owned British distributor.
The first public doubt appeared with what seemed to be a speculative item in The Times on 6 August, saying that Gaggia was ‘teetering on the brink of administration', a conclusion apparently reached from a recorded message on the company's telephone sales line saying that the company could not take any orders and that details about service and repair arrangements would be given later.
The next day, managing director Raj Beadle confirmed to Coffee House magazine that the provision of repair and after-sales services to Gaggia users would now be made available by Philips UK.
Then came the factory closure, with the Halifax Courier reporting an un-named worker as saying: "We've known the company has been in trouble for some time." Other reports said that Gaggia UK's last filed accounts, to March 2007, showed a loss of £520,000.
Gaggia UK was formed after Raj Beadle bought a small company in London which had the distribution rights for the machine founded by the man who effectively invented the modern espresso system in the 1930s.
His acquisition came just before the British high-street coffee bar boom and, fifteen years later, Gaggia UK had both a presence in the wider catering trade and in many high-street department stores selling domestic coffee machines.
Gaggia's role in the development of the espresso market of recent years has been widely respected, and Raj Beadle created barista championships specifically for bar staff in the hotel and restaurant sectors. Several of Britain's champion baristas worked with Gaggia at one time or another, and the company actively supported many local charities and causes.
By Ian Boughton