PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans is a popular regional coffee house chain, located primarily in Louisiana with stores in Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi. The Ballard family is the current driving force behind the successful business chain with businesswoman Torry Ballard leading the way.
Ballard is a native of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, who graduated from the Lawrenceville School in 1988. That same year, she moved to New Orleans and started college at Tulane University, where she met her husband, Paul. Ballard recalls that she was in a sorority and Paul was in a fraternity when they met. Ballard subsequently earned her degree in psychology. She had no idea that her future would move in such a different direction.
In 1995, Torry and Paul purchased the franchise rights of the first PJs coffee house on the Northshore, located on Highway 190 in Covington, Louisiana. Revealing that “PJ” stands for Phyllis Jordan, who founded the coffee company in 1978, Ballard explained, “Paul and I fell in love the product and liked the idea [of owning our own coffee shop], so we bought it.” Along with Paul’s two brothers, Scott and Steven and their wives, the Ballards opened another ten coffee houses between 1999 and 2006. Presently, there are over 60 coffee houses. Ballard says that her official titled is “co-owner,” but she does just about anything that needs to be done to keep the company successful.
According to Ballard, PJ’s sales usually are consistent throughout the year. Around the holidays, however, there is a spike in sales that Ballard attributes to gift cards, which are among the company’s most popular items. The most popular coffee flavors at PJ’s are Southern Pecan for hot coffee drinks and Viennese for the iced coffees. “[Viennese is] our signature drink,” Ballard states. PJ’s Coffee uses a unique cold-drip process for the iced coffees. The process produces a less acidic taste without destroying the integrity of the coffee beans. In addition to coffee, PJ’s Coffee stores offer teas, pastries, coffee accessories, and many other gift items.
PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans has an online service that Ballard says is a separate business entity. “This [PJ’s entity] also started in the early ‘90s, but as phone orders. Paul and I asked to include it when we acquired our first shop. It has now evolved into an online company,” Ballard explains. Although PJ’s online market has grown, Ballard says that it is not as large as that of the coffee houses. The majority of PJ’s Coffee’s online sales are as a result of customers that live outside the region having fallen in love with the coffee while visiting a PJ’s coffee house. Ballard says that most of the repeat online sales are to locations within the United States although PJ’s Coffee has shipped gift baskets to places as far away as Canada and England.
To facilitate online sales, PJ’s Coffee uses a local mom-and-pop shipping service, Pack ‘N’ Ship & More in Covington, that is owned by Robert Crowe. Using a shipping service allows Ballard to spend more time on other aspects of the business. According to Crowe, the shipping service is able to provide PJ’s Coffee “a business rate because of the volume of shipping it does.”
Looking back on the 20+ years the Ballards have been in the PJs coffee business, Ballard admits that she did not always see herself as a successful businesswoman. “It’s a lot of hard work,” she reflects. Ballard is the mother of four children, ranging in ages between 17 and 5. She and her husband have been married over 20 years and live in Mandeville.
For more information on PJ’s coffee, visit their website at www.pjscoffee.com. To get the PJ’s experience, visit one of their many nearby coffeehouses.