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How this Family-Owned and Operated Coffee Franchise Succeeds

By: PJ's Coffee

Category:PJ's Coffee Franchisees

In March of 2020, most businesses were in the midst of battening down the hatches. It didn’t feel like the time to push forward with a new challenge or opportunity for most people. However, for Marcus and Aracely Villarreal, this was when they decided to go forward with their newest endeavor and open a coffee shop franchise.

The past year has been tough on businesses across all industries, but the Villarreal’s came out on the other side stronger than ever and optimistic about the future—which they attribute to the support of their family and their community.

Marcus and Aracely, PJ's Coffee franchisees, posing together and smiling

From the Sandwich Shop to the Coffee Shop

The Villarreal’s have been franchising as a family for years. Aracely’s husband owns and operates six Subway franchises, which they still own together with Marcus. Aracely started off as a teacher, but as she got more involved with operating the Subways, the more her interest piqued. While her husband handled the day-to-day and general store operations, she focused on interpersonal communication.

“I mostly did HR,” she said, “so I knew all our employees. We’re always very selective.”

Marcus had his earliest work experiences as an employee at one of his parents’ franchises, starting at 14. Since then, he went on to study and work in business before finding his way back to franchising.

“I was the instigator,” Aracely said with a laugh. “I always knew I wanted to open a coffee shop.”

They looked into many different franchises before they discovered PJ’s Coffee. “PJ’s stood out to me,” Aracely said. “It was exactly what we were looking for. Even though it was big enough to have locations across the United States, it seemed very family-oriented to me, and I liked that,” Aracely explained.

“We’re not just on our own,” Marcus said. “It’s a big partnership.”

A True Dedication to Southern Hospitality

The Villarreal’s have remained franchisees for so long because they value the collaborative and supportive environment of franchise businesses.

“We take southern hospitality seriously. To us, it means making sure our franchisees feel at home. No matter what our partners need, we’re here to listen and answer questions and concerns. We believe the human connection is a crucial element of any sustainable company. In other words, we treat every one of our partners like a family member,” Aracely, said.

“The thing we’ve loved, from the moment we put in the first tile on the floor, is that everyone is just a phone call away,” Marcus said. “PJ’s is happy to help us, and we have the support anytime. That’s another reason we chose PJ’s.”

The Villarreal's posing together in front of their PJ's Coffee location, wearing PJ's branded masks.

Succeeding in Business and Family

Marcus and Aracely have struck the perfect balance with their coffee franchise and knew right away that they’d need to trust each other and delegate.

“What works for us, is that we’re honest. We both understand everything is about trying to do well for the business. There’s no ego, no ‘I do more,’” said Aracely.

Aracely and Marcus acknowledged it can be tricky to run a business with your family—it’s hard to hear criticism from loved ones—but they each understand that the benefit to a family business is knowing everyone always has each other’s best interests in mind.

“This is our business together, and we want to make sure our business grows and our family succeeds,” Aracely said.

“We have high expectations of each other,” Marcus adds. “We know what to expect.”

One way you can see this in their PJ's Coffee franchise is how they take on different aspects of ownership.

Marcus, being younger, with firsthand experience as a Subway employee, can connect with their in-store employees on a personal level. He can easily empathize and tune into their needs and challenges and leads like a peer mentor.

Aracely leans into her own experience as a teacher and mother. She can offer guidance to Marcus while also modeling to her employees what she needs from them. “Sometimes employees just need a nudge to meet expectations,” she says of her gentle leadership style.

Still, even when you’ve effectively delegated responsibilities, sometimes you still need help. “We’re always ready to ask for help when we need help from each other,” Marcus points out. “That’s the advantage of owning a family business.” We couldn’t agree more.

Plans for Growth

Marcus and Aracely recently celebrated their one-year store anniversary on November 9, and are excited about the future.

Person walking in front of a PJ's location holding a PJ's coffee cup.

After a spectacular year of growth and success, the two currently have plans to open another PJ’s Coffee franchise in 2022 and keep getting stronger as a family business. When Marcus reflected on their first year in a partnership, he had this to say: “If we were able to do that, then we have good things to come in the future.”

Looking to start a family business of your own? Contact us today to learn more!

  • $1,042,644*

    Average Unit
    Volume (AUV)

  • 19.8%

    4-year Same-Store

    Sales Increase

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Investment Tiers
  • Traditional Model

    A larger scaled PJ's with a full service menu offering located within a strip mall or free-standing building likely featuring a drive-thru.

    • Size: 650sqft - 2,000sqft
    • Initial Franchise Fee: $35K
    • Initial Investment: $459,000- $1,152,000
  • Non-Traditional Model

    A smaller scaled PJ's possibly with a limited menu offering located within another business - College/University Campuses, Healthcare Facilities, Hotels, Government Facilities, Military Bases, Airports, Shopping Malls, Etc.

    • Size: 250sqft - 1,000sqft
    • Initial Franchise Fee: $25K
    • Initial Investment: $228,000 - $511,000
  • Multi-Unit Option Agreements

    PJ's offers opportunities to enter into a Multi-Unit Option Agreement to develop multiple PJ's over a specified development schedule in a designated market. The initial franchise fee for the first PJ’s location is $35,000. Subsequent PJ’s Units receive a reduced franchise fee. The fee for each PJ’s Unit numbered two or greater is $10,000.

  • Master Franchise Agreements

    PJ's offers opportunities to International Franchisees to enter into a Master Franchise Agreement to develop multiple PJ's over a specified development schedule in a designated country or countries.

    • Initial Master Franchise Fee: $250k minimum (Varies depending on size of country or countries)
    • Total Investment: Varies depending on the number of PJ's developed
A Few More...
  • PJs has provided me with the flexibility to prioritize my day-to-day responsibilities. While demanding, the work/life balance I have been able to obtain while owning my locations is invaluable. PJ’s is a family-oriented brand and that is evident every day - we have great working, as well as personal, relationships with many folks at corporate. It truly is a family centered culture that I am excited to grow with! - Andrew Jones
  • We loved the products and the business model, and it all worked out so well. The ability to work with them is what sets them apart. They are very reasonable people and it’s a solid company. When we went to meet the team, everyone was super kind, and it was very apparent that they provide a ton of support to their franchisees. It’s important to feel like you can always reach out to somebody when needed. - Angela Harmon
  • I think if someone is looking for a franchise opportunity they should find something that fits their lifestyle. If you're a morning person, a coffee business might be good for you. I'm a morning person so waking up at 4 A.M. is fine, the whole 'wake up and smell the coffee' thing - that's me. - Anthony Satterlee
  • I decided to look into coffee and probably spent about 3 years doing the investigation. I decided on PJ's because the quality of the product is just head and shoulders above everybody else. - Tom Lewis
  • It's easy to be successful. You can become part of your community in a way you can't otherwise in a lot of other businesses. I would highly recommend it. - Polly Fisher
  • The best part of being a franchisee is the freedom. It gives you the opportunity to provide for your family, but also be a part of your family. It gives you time to play with your children or take a vacation, but still have a fantastic business. - Kelly Songy
  • I decided owning a PJ's Coffee shop was the way to go. From start to finish, corporate was there for me when I selected a location, ordered equipment and furniture. - Mateusz Dabrowski
  • I fell in love with PJs Coffee and the brand, years before I ever owned a location and now I own two! I wanted a business that, with the right staff, would be able to operate successfully without me having to be there all day every day. PJs coffee gives you that flexibility and freedom. I also love the family atmosphere that corporate provides and the camaraderie between franchisees is wonderful! You are in business for yourself, but not by yourself, and that is a great sense of comfort and security. I love this business!

    - Roxanne DeNicola
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