By 2003, Jackmont was a solid, profitable business, and Halpern was thinking about expanding. “We were still trying to figure out if we were going to stay in the airport space or migrate out to doing restaurants on the street,” he recalls. “I don’t think any of us wanted to have all our eggs in one basket, which meant being involved in the public sector, and we wanted to have a little bit more autonomy.”
Before they could make any moves, though, tragedy struck. Jackson, the man who had helped the company access financing and who could pick up the phone and reach out to virtually any decision-maker, died in June 2003. The loss of one of the leading champions of black business sent shockwaves throughout the business community—in Atlanta and across the country.
Shortly after Jackson’s death, in a strange twist of timing, Carlson Restaurants, the parent company of T.G.I. Friday’s, offered to sell Jackmont four additional locations. But it wasn’t without risk. The purchase price came to nearly $11.5 million—a lot of money for a company in Jackmont’s position.
The offer came at a sensitive time. “That was a big test for us,” says Halpern. “I’d be lying to you if, after Maynard died, I said people didn’t think we’d be out of business. This man gave us an opportunity, got us in business, and got us to this point.”
For his daughter, Jackson’s death was, of course, a deep and personal loss, but she was confident that the business would continue. “He was hands-on when it came to strategic planning, or assisting us with important connections, or helping us to pull together some initial financing,” says Jackson Edmond. “But he wasn’t part of the day-to-day operations.”
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