Catering company continues family tradition
by Clay Neely
When Jennifer Hanna noticed a lack of a catering service in Newnan, she decided to do something about it.
So, in 1992, she began Contemporary Catering with her brother, Johnny. Initially set out to be a lucrative side business, she felt confident that her previous experience as the business manager for The City Cafe would prove beneficial.
For the first few years, the business was sporadic due to the priority placed on her full-time job. At the time, Jennifer was working as an executive assistant at Coca-Cola while Johnny was managing Jabaley Liquor Store in Grantville.
Slowly, they built their base by doing weddings and corporate events. In 1995, the company drafted a letter of introduction to 300 people, and within 48 hours, their business shifted into a higher gear.
For the next four years, Jennifer and Johnny spent their free time trying to juggle their full-time jobs and their rapidly expanding side-business. Finally, in 1999, the decision was made to go full-time with their side business and they haven’t looked back.
Before long, they had outgrown their facility they were sharing with a bakery and were in need of a much larger facility to handle their needs.
“We had a three-hole sink, one convection oven and one household oven,” Jennifer said. “Real estate agents would show us old restaurants but that idea wasn’t viable. We needed a production space.”
In 2000, local real estate agents Pick Parks and Keith Brady approached the Hannahs with a very unique property on Herring Road.
The facility had belonged to a man who was contracted by Delta to prepare all of their kosher meals. However, his business had hit a rough spot and he was selling everything.
“The timing couldn’t have been better,” Johnny said. “When we say that we bought it lock, stock, and barrel, we mean it. Everything except the packaging equipment stayed here. It was a blessing.”
As the space was set up in accordance with Jewish dietary rules, the kitchen was kosher, featuring two separate kitchens, two walk-in coolers and one freezer.
The Hannas knew this was the space they had been waiting for and jumped on the opportunity immediately.
“We closed on the property on a Thursday,” Jennifer recalled. “We cleaned all weekend and opened that Monday. It was truly a gift from God.”
For the next eight years, business was booming with weddings, corporate events, and private parties. As Piedmont Newnan Hospital grew, so did the company – by hosting openings and physician mixers. The company provided the flowers, bar, and wait staff for the events they catered.
“Some businesses say that they cater, but what they really are doing is just dropping off some food for the event,” Johnny said. “However, our operation begins before anyone arrives and ends long after the last guest is gone.”
However, in 2008, the economic recession hit the U.S. and they weren’t an exception. But due to a decision made in 2007 to focus more efforts on weddings, the financial crisis didn’t hurt the company quite as bad as it did other businesses.
“No matter what is going on, people get married in any economy,” Johnny said. “By focusing our energy into that realm, we made it through the storm.”
Through weddings and events hosted by West Georgia Technical College and Piedmont, their company survived the recession. From full-scale catering to consulting, the Hannas have made it their calling card to help any client with planning for whatever project they might have.
“The people that we count on know that they can count on us,” Johnny said. “Our relationship with our community and our customers is a two-way street.”
Jennifer agrees, also noting that one of the most successful things any company can do is surround itself with people you can trust, represent you well and depend on – citing it ultimately makes the biggest impact in ensuring the success of a company and its reputation.
But for the Hannas, simply being involved in the community brings them the most happiness from opening their own company.
“Our decision to strike out on our own was rooted in family,” Jennifer said. “We’ve spent over 20 years in this business and it’s been very good to us.”
When it comes to running a family business in Newnan, siblings Jennifer and Johnny Hanna’s roots run deep in the community.
When their ancestors, Ellis and Effie Mansour, left Lebanon for Georgia in 1902, they began a long streak of family-owned businesses in Coweta County.
Mansour’s department store was a long-time staple in Newnan. In the 1960s, their cousins, Ellis and Charlie Mansour, opened Brothers Limited while husband-and-wife team Hershall Norred and Rochelle Mansour Norred ran Newnan Pawn Shop for decades.
“Mansour Travel Agency, Redneck Gourmet, Teneve … I’m probably leaving someone out,” Johnny said. “For over 100 years now, someone in our family has owned some kind of business in Newnan.”
“It’s a real honor for us to be able to carry on the tradition.”