Generations behind Newark's oldest coffee shop

- On a Thursday afternoon three generations of Sommer men gather behind the counter of the oldest coffee shop in Newark to scoop, grind and weigh their way through the 3 p.m. rush.

"We must've done something right," 75-year-old Bob Sommer said.

For 147 years, the T.M. Ward Coffee Company has sold coffee, nuts and other dry-goods to the people of Newark.

"We're hands-on," 49-year-old Scott Sommer said.

Scott and his two brothers learned the business from their father.

"People come in constantly," Scott said, "[and say:] 'Oh, I knew you when you were a little kid.' And then they see Zach."

"They say: 'Hi, Zach,'" 8-year-old Zach said.

Bob's father, Scott's grandfather and Zach's great-grandfather, William Sommer, purchased T.M. Ward from the Ward family in 1930, stocking and selling coffee beans from around the world decades before the artisan coffee craze began.

"I have to say," Scott said, "all the new things that have sprung up: We've had them."

"I would also recommend the peanuts," Zach said.

At T.M. Ward, 120-year-old propane-fueled peanut roasters roast 20 pounds of peanuts every hour in the back, a second-grader grinds beans from all over the world in the front, and boxes of bright, sugar-coated everythings stack their way to the ceiling, while a family of Sommers attempts to run an old business in a modern world from the vantage points of three different generations.

"We have different opinions," Bob said.

"I would say: fun," Zach said.

"It's wonderful," Scott said. "It has its ups and downs. It keeps things going. That's why we're here."

Three Sommer men stand behind the counter of a business founded in 1869, hustling to make it to the end of another day to ensure the family business endures to provide the next generation of Sommers with the same place of employment.

"T.M. Ward," Zach said.

"Newark's been good for us," Bob said, "but I think we've been good for Newark, too."

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