George Moen Vancouver’s Serial Entrepreneur: Part 1 in an Investigative Series

“Yes, we’re in the beverage retail business,” he says, “but really what we are is a franchise development company that just so happens to use coffee as a vehicle.”
 – George Moen, 2010

There is no question that George Moen has been working hard over his lifetime to maintain his self assigned title of “Serial Entrepreneur”.  Anyone involved in social media at all, would drop their jaw in awe at the number of followers he has on Twitter (currently 134,000+ at the time of this article).  Articles like this one, describing the power of his endurance to achieve success have been published regularly over the years and likely someone is in the middle of publishing one right now.  Mentioned in many of these articles are things like:

  • Serial entrepreneur
  • Sandwich Tree
  • Blenz Coffee President/CEO
  • Rapid Time Networks http://rapidtimenetworks.com/
  • Inca One Resources
  • Coaches Planner software
  • High Output Business Networking

But there is much more to the George Moen story than meets the eye.  There are many things about his ‘success’ that are no described in these articles and online profile that make up an important part of who he is.  Questions like:

  • Where is Sandwich Tree today?
  • Who is this “Tonyc” listed on the Sandwich Tree website and what is his relationship to George Moen, Steamrollers and Blenz Coffee?
  • What was the experience of Franchisees under George Moen as their Franchisor?
  • Is there a relationship between Inca One resources and is there a Blenz connection?
  • What is Rapid Times network and how does it work? And does it work?
  • Is there a connection between Blenz Coffee and Steamrollers?
  • Who are the vendors that Blenz and Steamrollers have chosen in the past and did this relationship benefit the Franchisees?
  • What is Black Tusk Tea and who owns it?
  • Is there a connection between the ever-respected Van City Buzz and George Moen who both have countless tens of thousands of follwers and Blenz the Canadian Coffee Company?
  • Are there any law suits that involve George Moen or any of the corporations with which he is involved?
  • What are the similarities between Sandwich Tree, Steamrollers, Blenz Coffee and their business model?
  • Which law firm represents Blenz Coffee and why is this interesting?
  • and more

Stay tuned as we explore these and other interesting connections as they pertain to George Moen, Vancouer’s ‘Serial Entrepreneur”

 

What Will Replace Blenz Coffee at Pacific Centre?

On May 24, 2014 the VCSFA published an article called ‘Yet Another Prestigious Blenz Closes: Pacific Centre on Granville’  about the sudden disappearance of the landmark Blenz Coffee at Pacific Centre at 609 Granville Street. At that point it was rumoured that another clothing retailer had won the prized retail location ousting Blenz in a similar leasing situation as what occurred at Robson and Burrard. Both of these locations were high volume, and high visibility locations for the Vancouver brand.

For the owners (Franchisees) of these locations, they witnessed the entire value of whatever amount of goodwill they paid for their respective locations, evaporate before their eyes, leaving them with nothing more than whatever street value their aged and depreciated equipment was worth at the moment of loss – Not a pretty picture for their ‘franchise partners’ as Blenz likes to call them.
Some assumed that the loss of these prime locations and subsequent appearance of a new retailer was a deal agreed upon between Blenz corporate, the Blenz Franchisee, and the new retailer. The assumption, namely because there weren’t any indications otherwise, was that perhaps all stakeholders in the deal agreed that these locations were not well suited for coffee. Our new reports reveal that they may have assumed incorrectly and the now-stranded Franchisees may not have been involved in the lease negotiations at all.  Now wouldn’t that be a tad unfair to their ‘partner’?

Blenz Coffee, as do other Vancouver franchises, sets itself up as direct tenant in their commercial leases.  In this common franchise-model arrangement, the Franchisee is then responsible, by means of a sub-lease agreement, for cutting rent cheques directly to the landlord.  The Franchisee assumes this agreement is in place so that the Franchisor (in this case Blenz) can wield their powerful branded sword forcing the landlord into obedient submission resulting in the acquisition of prime retail locations (in this case Robson/Burrard and Pacific Centre) at rates that allow for a profitable business.  A green Franchisee typically does not understand these complex commercial arrangements and therefore trusts their Franchisor to be looking out for their mutual best interest.  In law this is called ‘to act in good faith‘ or ‘responsibility of good faith’.  In the case of Blenz, failing to renew a lease, or failing to secure a lease rate that is competitive and/or reasonable in the marketplace would equate to the fast destruction of the investment.

All eyes are now on Pacific Centre. Will it become another Lulu Lemon situation like at Burrard and Robson where a retailer from a totally separate industry takes over?

If it becomes a clothing retailer, or something completely removed from the food and beverage sector, then Blenz Coffee might be able to explain to this former (and probably rather upset) Franchisee that this location is not well suited for a retail coffee business, or their coffee brand or that the person who won the space had higher profit margins than them and are therefore able to justify doing business in Pacific Centre. It would be difficult for the former franchisee to have enough know-how to fight that battle.

If something like a Tim Horton’s were to open at 609 Granville, the Franchisee would then be able to present a good argument that Blenz Coffee just ‘let’ another similar business come in and ‘take’ their space, leaving them with nothing. However, Blenz might then be able to say something like ‘Well, Tim Horton’s is different. It’s more of a food-based model with cheaper price points – much different from the ideal Blenz customer.’

But if something were to open in the same space like a Waves Coffee, Starbucks, Take Five, Caffe Artigiano, or any other similarly-branded Italian-style coffee shop (especially those our Francouver list) with the standard espresso-based offerings and a few pastries spattered on the side, then the question will quickly become: How hard did Blenz the Canadian Coffee Company negotiate with the Pacific Centre landlord to maintain their prized location and assure the longevity of the Franchisee’s investment?

How hard did Blenz the Canadian Coffee Company negotiate with the Pacific Centre landlord to maintain their prized location and assure the longevity of the Franchisees investment?

If the answer turns out to be ‘not very hard’, then the next logical question would be “why not?”.

But only time will tell as the lease-hold improvements take place behind the boarded up windows at 609 Granville Street.

Blenz Coffee General Manager Mark West Runs Second Simultaneously Competing Franchise Look Tea

If allowing their GM Mark West to own his own competing coffee franchise My Cup while attempting to look out for the best interest of Blenz Franchisees wasn’t odd enough, Vancouver’s Blenz Coffee has now allowed him to kickstart a brand new competing tea franchise as well – LOOK Organic Tea

Mark West launches Blenz Competitor LOOK Organic Tea

Mark West launches Blenz Competitor LOOK Organic Tea

On February 10th of this year, the VCSFA published an article about the sudden sale and subsequent splitting of the Blenz Library Square corporate store.  We noted that it was a very interesting business decision to give up such a prime location that was previously used for training new Blenz Franchisees.

More interesting than the actual sale of such a useful corporate asset was the mystery of what would be opening right next door to the store that they had just sold off to a new Franchisee.  Here is a question we asked in our article published nearly five months ago:

Has Blenz protected the current owner of this Library Square location from a potentially competing business opening right next store?  There is not hint of what kind of business will be moving in to the former training space.  What if it turned out to be another coffee shop or tea shop?

Will wonders never cease?

Not only did a tea shop open right next door that competes directly with the Esprit line of Blenz premium teas that Blenz Franchisees are forced by contract law to sell, but the name of the man receiving all franchise inquiries at LOOK Tea is the very same name on the Blenz franchise inquiry page – Mark West. In addition, although the page has recently and mysteriously become un-clickable at the My Cup website, Mark West was also the name on the My Cup Coffee and Tea franchise inquiry page.  Thankfully we saved a screen shot of this. It’s also interesting to note that Mr. West no longer lists the Georgia and Seymour My Cup location which directly competes with three different Blenz locations.   The following are screen shots are from those respective pages:

join-us-LOOK

Want a LOOK Tea Franchis? Call Mark West!

 

Want a Blenz Franchise? Call Mark West!

Want a Blenz Franchise? Call Mark West!

Want a My Cup Franchise? Call Mark West!

Want a My Cup Franchise? Call Mark West!

 

Until the launch of LOOK Organic Tea took place in a retail space that literally shares a physical wall and ‘support’ staff and leadership with a Blenz location (Shawn Pattison of LOOK also works for Blenz the Canadian Coffee Company), the camp was divided as to whether or not Blenz was looking out for the best interests of its Franchisees.

The camp is no longer divided.

 

Yet Another Prestigious Blenz Closes: Pacific Centre on Granville

Blenz Investor Alert: Danger!

Blenz Pacific Centre Shuts its doors

Blenz Pacific Centre Shuts its doors

If you were considering investing in the once powerful and quickly growing Blenz Coffee, and you noticed that they were losing prestigious retail location after prestigious location every few months, you might be wise to do a little extra research.

Blenz loses location to another clothing retailer

Blenz loses location to another clothing retailer

The sudden closure of the Blenz Coffee at Pacific Centre this week is just one of now many in a string of closures over the last 24 months.

You can read all about the different closures here:

Blenz Coffee Bayswater

Blenz Coffee Burrard and Robson

Blenz Coffee St. Paul’s Hospital: It was owned by a Franchisee, then by the Burrard Hotel, then suddenly all signs of Blenz disappeared and they now sell JJ Bean)

Blenz Coffee Cambie @ 17th

Blenz Coffee Hastings @ Howe

But it doesn’t end there.

Another red flag that started waving a few months ago that should have raised a few eyebrows was the sudden and quiet sell off of what was previously their pride and joy: the Library Square Corporate Training Centre where they hosted public events and tried out innovative drink ideas.  Within a flash it had been halved in size and sold off to a fresh new ‘franchise partner’.

Another even more devastating blow to the brand are the growing number of lawsuits against the former Vancouver coffee powerhouse including one filed by a small group of franchisees and another by a previous head office employee.

Will Blenz Coffee be able to pull out of the obvious tailspin?  Will Mark West, be able to save the day?

Stay tuned for more news on Blenz Coffee and other coffee related news.

Blenz Ranked as Lawsuit of the Week by Business in Vancouver (BIV)

Blenz Ranked as Lawsuit of the Week by Business in Vancouver (BIV)

Well respected and well read local business publication Business in Vancouver not only picked up on the court filing made by three former Blenz Franchisees against its former Franchisor, but ranked it as their ‘Lawsuit of the Week’ – and rightfully so.  Blenz has enjoyed for many years a natural windfall of sales produced by loyal customers who feel warm and fuzzy about the ‘local Canadian brand’. No doubt the very presence of this filing surprised the author.

Although the BIV article covers fairly well the claims of hindered store sales and lease renewal problems common to the three plaintiffs, a $6.00 download of the very large filing reveals that it didn’t even touch upon one of the most devastating claims against the Franchisor – Kormi’s doomed, mandatory, and very expensive renovation and surrounding events.  This part of the claim alone covers pages and pages and, if these claims are proven in a court of law and picked up by local media (ie. Steele on your Side), they will certainly have the potential to evaporate a good percentage of the ‘warm & fuzzy’ mentioned above.

767_seymour_from_front_left

It is also noteworthy that there was no mention of the first court filing of 2014 against Blenz by Elizabeth Jacobo.  Reports from those who have read this filing indicate that it is on par or even more potentially devastating to the Vancouver brand than the claims found within the Taylor, Sahdra, Kormi suit.

Read our March 14th report of the growing number of lawsuits Blenz is facing in 2014.

Check back regularly for updates on this and other similar stories.

 

 

Blenz Coffee Involved in Growing Number of Lawsuits

We were informed today that at least two lawsuits have been filed in the Supreme Court against Blenz the Canadian Coffee Company LTD so far in 2014 – and it’s only March!

blenz_lawsuits_2014

CLICK TO SEE DETAILS

Following our usual protocol here at the VCSFA of verifying information before sharing, we searched and confirmed the report .  A quick trip to the Court Services Online (an online service for seeing what’s going on in the courts) revealed two separate filings for 2014 already.

An individual, Jacobo (#140041), and a group of three, Taylor, Kormi, and Sahdra (#141773) are listed as Plaintiffs and Blenz Coffee as Defendants.

Also listed as a Defendant in the group case is “Moadebi“.  A quick internet search reveals this individual as a commercial agent.

We have not yet obtained the court documents associated with these listings (available for a $6.00 fee for download).

As always, please continue to share information like this with us so that we can remain the source for coffee shop franchise information in Vancouver.

 

How a Few Law Suits Can Really Cripple a Franchise

Global TV aired a very, very damning broadcast about Zerona Canada today.  If you have been reading our articles at the VCSFA, you would not have been surprised at the kind of behaviour.

The summary of the lessons that one should take away from this unfortunate story are as follows:

  • Even a great product (or service) cannot make a business fly on its own
  • Franchisors make lots of claims that should be checked and then checked again
  • This pain would have continued and never been exposed if these courageous owners didn’t fight the dominant power – and yes, a franchisee is in a position of weakness before they sign up for the deal.
  • Support (or lack thereof) is *absolutely rampant* in franchising.  Amongst most cases we’ve seen you can only be sure you are getting one thing – the name.  Everything above that is [sadly] a bonus
  • Franchisors: you can only burn so many bridges before the skeletons of your past close in from all sides and you have no where to run but to the judge for mercy

As always, we are here to help franchisees of coffee shops – and beyond.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to us here at the VCSFA

Blenz Coffee Sells Off Corporate Training Centre at Prestigious Library Blenz

Blenz the Canadian Coffee Company LTD has sold their corporate training centre at Library Square to a new franchisee.  A sign reading “This location has new owners! We look forward to serving you!” was posted on the window.

new-owners

This location was a very useful component to the Blenz brand and had been the location used not only for giving new franchisees (owners) a chance to train with the public before running their own stores, but also for hosting events such as ‘That Barista Thing’.  They also used the location to do dry runs on new products and get feedback from customers.

This location has a challenging history as it was reportedly owned by a franchisee before Blenz took over the location from the upset owner.

Adding to the story of the sudden recent change of hands of this prestigious location is the simultaneous erection of a dividing wall between what was the ‘training side’ (left) and the ‘customer side’ (right) as shown in the this photo:

closed-training

This most serious corporate decision begs the following questions:

  • Where will new franchisees in the Blenz chain get trained moving forward and how will this affect the quality of the training?
  • Has Blenz protected the current owner of this Library Square location from a potentially competing business opening right next store?  There is not hint of what kind of business will be moving in to the former training space.  What if it turned out to be another coffee shop or tea shop?
  • Why did Blenz sell this location?  Did the city of Vancouver charge too much rent?  Our reports show that lease rates in Library Square are some of the most manageable in the city.  There are fewer locations with such a captive audience as library square.

This seemingly silent transaction should prompt franchisees and all stakeholders involved with Blenz the Canadian Coffee Company LTD to be on high alert if this decision was indeed not explained in advance.

As always, send us your industry information and we will be pleased to do a follow up report.  We are here to help.