Issue 37, September 18th

Hearing John Valentino’s story last week was inspiring to say the least.  To think he came from a completely unrelated industry, decided to open a franchise restaurant, AND completely changed the franchisee structure for greater emphasis on the bar is incredible.  I had visited various Mellow Mushroom restaurants throughout GA when traveling and noticed they had about 6 beer taps on average.  If you visit one of John’s here locally you’ll see nothing short of at least 2 dozen with a heavy emphasis on the local brews.  Also the architecture of the Jax locations is far more creative.  Basically he has the name on the buildings, food, menus, but everything else seems to be his personal touches.  Due to John’s ability to take risks, the Tinseltown and Beach locations are often the top producing stores in the entire Mellow footprint!  This was a fine example of entrepreneurship in Jacksonville; no doubt he’ll grow to dwarf many of his competitors.  As he mentioned working on franchising the Burrito Gallery brand, that could turn into another national success story for a Jax based company.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to have Howard & Jeanne’s Meet-a-Member coming up next week!  We had hoped to kick the year off with them, but Howard’s firm had renovations planned that delayed our event.  Fortunately we’ll get to see the finished product, and with a name like “Law and Libations” it’s sure to be a fantastic time.  Also, this is a great opportunity to bring a prospective member to see SBMC After-Hours!  If you’ve brought a guest to lunch that hasn’t yet joined, get them to come out for this event and I’ll help you close.

By now most of you have already seen the news about the University Club’s pending closure later this year. This was the site of our Holiday Party in 2011 immediately following their renovations.  They asked us to return the following year, but wanted to keep the new bar area private to members.  This hindered our capacity so we were forced to pass and look elsewhere.  It’s sad to see something close after riding the ups and downs of the economy for the past 48 years.  On the flip side it will be exciting to see what happens to the unique space atop the Riverplace Tower!

Continuing on our Jacksonville Entrepreneurial series, this week we’ll hear from Earl Benton who owns Champion Brands.  You’ve probably seen his trucks around town, but if you’re unfamiliar Champion is the local Craft and Import Beer distributor.  They handle the Miller Brand along with Heineken, New Belgium, most of the Jacksonville based Craft Breweries like Intuition, and the majority of your favorite imports!  Looking closer to home, Earl donates all the beer to Mike White’s charity Craft & Import Beer festival each May!  This event benefits non-profits and serves as a marketing event; SBMC has volunteered and benefited several times as well as seen many of our members patronize the event.  A big thanks goes out to Mike for securing Earl as a speaker, he’s guaranteed not to disappoint.

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