by Eric A Thomas
In 2011, Saif Mouilish saw something in a donut shop that had been in existence since 1927. He knew by investing capital and working diligently to improve the product, this business could flourish. Fast forward to 2020 and the owner of SafeCo Donuts & Bakery has been forced to rethink how they achieve results.
“When this pandemic hit, our operations came to a grinding halt; like many other businesses,” commented Mouilish. “In rethinking the future, it was apparent that in order for us to continue producing a quality product and keeping our employees working, we needed to think outside the box.” Sometimes things in history can help you roll into the future.
After much consideration, Mouilish realized that people are not looking to spend time in dining rooms but want more of a safe zone with a grab and go concept. He began to brainstorm how to transform their current business using this concept. The trolley cars of old are just the avenue that SafeCo decided to implement to assure they can still serve the people of the area and keep their workers employed.
SafeCo has invested in a trolley-style food wagon that will be in operation at their main store located at 218 W. Morton in Jacksonville. It will allow customers to walk up, place their order, receive it and go. What is exciting about this concept is that it will go beyond just the one trolley in one location. “Prior to this pandemic we had a presence in 16 different cities, villages and towns within a 200-mile radius,” added Mouilish. “Our goal is to have one of these trolley cars established in each of these areas that we are already present in.” By the end of 2020, SafeCo plans on having six trolley cars and by the end of 2021, they plan to have a fleet reaching 25. Some of these will be permanent, some will be semi-permanent, and some will be moved daily depending on the location and the volume based on traffic. The daily locations will be announced through their social media platforms. Ultimately this will be a $2 million investment.
These portable units will be utilized differently. Some will be used as retail outlets, some will go to area fairs and parades and community events. Additionally, these trolleys will be available for weddings and private events. Mouilish is working out the final details but hopes to add franchise capabilities under the umbrella of SafeCo.
The initial trolley located in Jacksonville not only will offer the current SafeCo menu of fresh donuts and pastries and all options of current coffee offerings but, they will expand to offer nine flavors of ice cream. If the ice cream is successful here in Jacksonville, it will be added to the other trolleys. Jacksonville will serve as the test market for this overall idea.
A sense of community, pride in your product and the belief that your most important asset is your employees will guide SafeCo into the future despite the current state of affairs.
“To protect and preserve our most valuable asset, our employees, we had to reinvent ourselves to ensure that our company is maintaining the same production levels and therefore maintaining the same level of employment,” said Mouilish.
During the three months of shutdown, SafeCo produced over 50,000 donuts which they gave out to the community. “We understand that our fans love what we do and what we produce. Being closed like this has been tough on the sweet cravings. During this time of a lot of negative energy and news, it feels great to help put a smile on people’s faces,” added Mouilish.