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Jax Daily Record Monday, Apr. 27, 202005:20 AM EST

Martin Coffee Co. ‘ remaining optimistic because we’re fortunate'

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President Ben Johnson says the company is reducing operating expenses, seeking government loans and keeps the payroll intact.
by: Katie Garwood Staff Writer

Although Ben Johnson, president of Martin Coffee Co., said his main streams of business from restaurants and offices have dropped significantly, he knows his company can weather the pandemic.

The restaurants Martin Coffee services are not selling much coffee since people rarely order it with takeout meals. The offices he supplies don’t need it since most employees are working from home.

“I’m definitely remaining optimistic because we’re fortunate most all of our customers will still be there when things get back to normal,” he said. “They’re all going to need product right away. Most of our customers are the exact businesses that are hurting.”

Johnson said he continues to supply coffee to nursing homes and other locations still in operation. He also has seen an uptick in online sales from customers in Jacksonville and across the country. 

Martin Coffee, at 1633 Marshall St. in the Talleyrand area, continues to roast private label coffee for other businesses.

The company’s nine full-time employees are working and paid their normal salaries, Johnson said. 

Since Martin Coffee owns its facilities, equipment and delivery vehicles, he has been able to significantly reduce his operating costs to focus on covering payroll. 

Johnson’s grandparents, who started the company, were adamant about keeping costs low and owning every part of the company once they started it in 1957. Living during the Great Depression taught them to manage their finances carefully. 

“In the ‘30s all during the Depression, they learned to keep a tight belt on everything,” Johnson said. “It never rang more true than today. We’re very fortunate our business was not spread thin with financing.” 

He said the company received a $10,000 Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance from the Small Business Administration. He applied for that program the day it became available, then two weeks later had to resubmit when the application changed. 

Johnson said he is confident he also will receive funds from the Paycheck Protection Program now that it is replenished. He applied for the program through Ameris Bank, which helped him apply quickly and early. 

“I feel for the small businesses trying to get applications done. It’s been challenging,” said Johnson, the JAX Chamber 2020 Overall Small Business Leader of the Year.

“That’s the No. 1 question I get from the small business leaders. ‘Have you heard anything? Who are you going through?’ All of that. A lot of people are having trouble with it.”

To familiarize himself with the loan process, Johnson attended multiple webinars so he could help educate his customers and fellow business owners, too. 

“My goal is to help as many of my customers as possible because their success is our success,” he said. 

 

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