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Matmail:

I have passed a building near the corner of India and Ivy for years that has this painting on the wall and have wondered forever what happened to this product.

-- Bob, downtown

The painting Bob ponders on the building at 800 West Ivy, Little Italy, is a red can of Ben-Hur coffee. On the label, Ben's at the reins of his chariot, charging off into a bright and profitable future. Ben-Hur was a brand name for a popular line of spices, flavor extracts, tea, coffee, and some related food products. The original marketer was a wholesale grocer in L.A. who started his own processing and packaging company in 1903. The corporation opened a sales branch at the Ivy Street location in the 1920s, followed by facilities in San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. The company's biggest coffee customer was Lucky supermarkets. Ben made the Lucky store brand. In the mid-'50s, the megamart decided they needed a larger supplier, and Ben lost the account. Their operations were bought out in 1955 by McCormick Co. of Baltimore, Maryland (now the McCormick-Schilling spice folks). McCormick discontinued the coffee and tea lines that same year, and Ben was reduced to going to Starbucks like the rest of us.

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