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Buffalo-linked Death Wish Coffee featured in Super Bowl ad

Vidler’s 5 & 10 did not get the free Super Bowl commercial it was vying for, but a company with Buffalo ties did.

The winner was Death Wish Coffee, the Saratoga County-based maker of what it calls “the world’s strongest coffee.” John Swedish, its master roaster, production manager and lifelong best friend of the company’s founder, was born in Springville, lived in Arcade and Delevan, and graduated from Canisius College in 1999. He met his wife at Canisius, roots for the Bills and Sabres and comes back to visit family and friends several times a year.

“Buffalo, for many reasons, will always be the place I call home,” he said via email.

Death Wish, Vidler’s and California-based clothing company Chubbies Shorts were the three finalists in Intuit QuickBooks’ annual Small Business, Big Game contest, beating out 15,000 other entrants. Death Wish received a free, 30-second Super Bowl commercial, worth an estimated $4.5 million. As a runner up, Vidler’s received $25,000 and a local advertising package valued at $15,000.

Swedish said he felt “honored” to be in the finals with the East Aurora company he so admires.

“As a young kid, my mother and father would take us to Vidler’s, but only when we were good,” he said.

The feeling is mutual.

“Very glad that if not us, it was Death Wish,” said Don Vidler. “Good guys and also a New York State company.”

Vidler’s has been stocking Death Wish coffee in its store since Christmas and has had trouble keeping it on shelves.

Vidler’s hosted a Super Bowl viewing party for all of its employees at Wallenwein’s Hotel Sunday night with pizza, wings and beef on weck.

“I had seen the Death Wish spot prior to the game and I think it’s great, but most of our employees had not,” Vidler said. “No lie or exaggeration, they all spontaneously applauded after it ran.”

The commercial features a ship full of Vikings, fiercely rowing on a dark, turbulent ocean. In a rousing speech, its captain urges the crew to “awaken and welcome death” before they’re swallowed by a Death Wish drinker.

Swedish said he was “blown away” when he first saw it, and thought it perfectly encapsulated the ideals behind small businesses.

“It’s a battle cry. Fear nothing. Row!” he said. “Keep pushing and keep dreaming.”

Swedish and others from Death Wish got to attend the Super Bowl and spent the preceding days living like rock stars in San Francisco.

But now it’s back to the grind, scrambling to keep up with the newly heightened demand. The company’s production has increased from 10,000 pounds to 250,000.

A pound of Death Wish coffee, complete with skull-and-crossbones logo, retails for $19.99. The company’s website offers a full refund “if it’s not the strongest coffee you’ve ever had.”