Libby Miller and Gay Fortson, owners, Friendship Coffee Company, a Wilmington Island cafe
205 Johnny Mercer Blvd. Suite I, Savannah, GA 31410.
(Miller) We started in May, 2013, strictly wholesale. We had accounts in Georgia and South Carolina. We sold whole bean and ground bags of coffee which was roasted in Wilmington Island. Also starting in September 2013 we sold cold brew –Sweet and Creamy and Smooth and Black.
Gay wanted to open up a small retail space. And the community seemed to want more. We were already partnering with local bakers – for instance, Midtown Deli bagels and Charlotte’s Confections’ cinnamon rolls and crumb cake. We started adding food to our menu. A lot of people wanted to come and sit. And when Hurricane Matthew hit, we had electricity. So we opened seven days a week. We serve breakfast and lunch all day long. Gay made up the menu. There’s a three eggs scrambler with tomato and goat cheese. And salads. And we’ll do any kind of coffee. Our cold brew is our best seller. We want to continue to do that with the same warmth and love. Also, we do a comedy night once a month. We’ll do a Sinatra night (a local singer sings Sinatra songs.)
We have an open mic night. We’ve had Gail Thurman, a singer and pianist, once a week. And we do retail: We sell local items – soaps, Savannah Bee products, Leoci’s and local artists’ work
(Miller) Six or seven.
why are we successful
(Miller) We’re filling a niche in Wilmington Island and the surrounding island area. We believe in small business. It’s awesome that we have a community working with us. And Gay is always here. This is her love, her passion. And she makes soups, wonderful dishes. It’s been a great business for social media. Yelp has been wonderful.
(Fortson) We believe in our product. And we filled a need with great food and good coffee.
Also, I think we work our butts off seven days a week.
best professional achievement
(Miller) I think seeing this business take on a life of its own. People come here and want to be here. That’s a crowning moment. We’re married to this job.
(Fortson) We’re hitting our goals. We’ve only been doing food for nine months and we’re doing well. Most businesses lose money at first but we’re even.
(Miller) We’d love to have additional space. We’d love to expand. We want to be able to be in a community area, where the community values local business and the uniqueness that we offer.
Tips for other businesses
(Miller) Have a passion for doing what’s right and staying true to your beliefs. Hard work, honesty and love will help you succeed.
(Fortson) Follow your dreams. Work hard. And love what you do.
Things to avoid
(Miller) You’re going to make mistakes along the way. … Learn from those mistakes. … We had wanted to serve liquor. When the alcohol thing fell through, our attorney said concentrate on what you have here. We put all our energy into making top-notch food and making our customers happy.
(Fortson) We had a business plan. We were doing wholesale. When it wasn’t working, we changed our business plan to do a café. Don’t be afraid to make changes.
why the Savannah area works for us
(Miller) It’s home.
(Fortson) It’s all about community. It’s more than just our love of coffee. This is a place where people come in and relax. We have sports groups, church groups, a men’s group, Mothers of Preschoolers. It’s a good space with a good feeling. And we made this from scratch.
(Miller) We painted these walls. We had the floors put down. We did it all.
(Miller) Good friends deserve great coffee.
Phone: (912) 335-7634
Website: www.friendship coffeecompany.com
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— Lanie Peterson