Like many entrepreneurs, CBC Griffin client George Johnson has undertaken multiple ventures over the years. As a young man just out of college, he entered the furniture business in his hometown of Cambridge, MN. Dissatisfied with the print advertising available at the time, he started a shopping guide to promote area businesses, including his own. The guide was so successful that Johnson created a new company to handle its distribution, which soon expanded to include shopping guides for neighboring areas. Growth begat growth and Johnson eventually founded a mail service company to handle distribution beyond private delivery areas.
Along the way, Johnson has also dabbled in commercial real estate investment. “It’s always been a hobby while I’ve been doing other things, but I’m not a professional in any sense,” he says. Most of his property holdings are in the Cambridge area, but Johnson’s very first commercial property investment was in the early 1990s, in the Minneapolis suburb of St. Anthony. “We were looking for a new location for our mailing business and I happened across this building that was being offered at a ridiculously low price,” Johnson recalls. The property was not right for his company, and it was empty of tenants and in need of significant repair. But Johnson was attracted to the price and he was also familiar with the broker: CBC Griffin, which he knew of thanks to his involvement in a local youth organization with longtime CBC Griffin owner, Bob Dunbar. “I knew the people, and knew that they were trustworthy,” Johnson says. “And in visiting with Griffin and learning about their property management services, they were able to tell me what it would cost to put the building in good shape.” Johnson decided to make the leap, and negotiated both the purchase and a property management contract with Griffin on the strength of his confidence in the people involved. “I didn’t want to be worrying about a building that I owned in Minneapolis unless I had someone I could trust to look after it,” he explains.
Twenty years later, Johnson has had no regrets. “I’ve had total peace of mind as far as that building is concerned,” he says. “Griffin has been exceptionally dependable, taking care of our tenants, managing the property, and collecting the rents.” In fact, in his later real estate investments closer to home, he’s taken his cue from what he’s experienced and observed with CBC Griffin. “We watched what Griffin did for us in the metro area and pretty much duplicated that up here, so we’ve learned a lot from them,” says Johnson.
Johnson has since sold his shopping guide and printing companies and his son-in-law and his son now own and manage the mailing business. This has freed him to spend more time on another “hobby,” helping fellow entrepreneurs in former Soviet countries to set up printing shops, as part of a church ministry called READ (Resources for Evangelism And Discipleship). Johnson first visited Ukraine during the chaos after the fall of the Soviet Union. While there, he met a young man who wanted to start a printing company to produce Christian literature, which had long been banned during the Soviet era. But the would-be printer was constrained by a lack of equipment and resources, so Johnson put out a call to printers in Minnesota for used equipment. Before long, he had collected enough to ship a working print shop to him. In this latest successful venture, Johnson is putting his years of business experience and a sense of mission to work helping others to establish new businesses, create jobs, and rebuild their religious communities.
George Johnson is just one of the many outstanding people that CBC Griffin is proud to include among its clients. We salute his energy, sound business management, and dedication to community—both here at home and half a world away.
This article was researched and written by Leslie Watson of the Busy Pen