Building a business empire (and marriage) in Flint

Five years. Five businesses. This is just normal married life for Mark and Meghan Hoffman—an entrepreneurial young couple making their way in Flint.

Meghan Hoffman comes from a family of business owners, mostly hotels and restaurants in Mackinaw City. Mark Hoffman, a Flint native, comes from a line of entrepreneurs himself, including his mother, aunt, uncle, and brother.

They first met at a meeting of the Flint and Genesee Young Professionals Group when they were put in charge of handling food for an after-hours event—and things “just exploded from there,” Mark said. They wed Aug. 2, 2012, and during their partnership have together created five Flint-based businesses.

Mark’s first business was working alongside his brother, Heath, opening Hoffman’s Deco Deli in 2008. And, soon enough, even before the marriage, Meghan was a fixture at the Garland Street business—helping with events, organizing catering, and supporting Mark.

In 2014, they tackled two new business ventures together as two of the original tenants of the Flint Farmers’ Market when it opened at the First Street location. They continue to operate both with Mark taking the lead at Hoffman’s Chop Shop meat market, which specializes in custom cut meats, organic and pasture-raised chicken, and grass-fed Angus beef.

One aisle over, Meghan is at the helm of Floradora, where buckets of fresh-cut flowers greet customers. It specializes in unique flowers and focuses on local blooms whenever possible.

They each have their specialty, but their businesses still ultimately are a team effort.

While Mark focuses on the Chop Shop (which also briefly operated a deli in the neighboring space) and Meghan on Floradora, they still work together on everything and make it a team effort, always being there for each other.

“There are just amazing people here. … The faces we see every day and the people who keep continuing to come back,” said Meghan. “It’s just really cool to watch that part of the business in Flint.”

And, they didn’t stop there.

The Hoffmans also operate EMFlower, a social enterprise partnership with the YWCA that employs women served by the organization and offers job training. Now in its second season, most of the fruits and vegetables grown there are given directly to the YWCA women’s shelter. The rest is sold to local businesses.

Related story: It looks like a flower shop, but dig a little deeper: Floradora helps rebuild lives

And, in the last year they’ve also officially established their fifth business: Tomahawk Reclaimed Lumber Company, which started as a hobby in 2015 when Mark and co-owner Tom Jones came together to make furniture out of old, unwanted, and/or discarded wood.

Each piece of wood is from Flint and other parts of Genesee County. The company uses trees that fall over during storms, those that are donated, and even wood from old barns. In exchange for the wood, Mark Hoffman and Jones are responsible for disassembling the barns and transporting it.

Customers pick out their wood—which often is left with its distinct grooves and marks of age, including nails and minerals that can give the wood distinct grain patterns and colors.

Mark Hoffman and business partner Tom Jones officially established Tomahawk Reclaimed Lumber Company in the last year to make furniture out of old, unwanted, and/or discarded wood.“They get the whole story, because we can tell them where that log came from, like the East Side of Flint or Downtown Flint, so I kind of like that, too—telling them a story,” said Mark Hoffman.

Mark Hoffman and Jones have made and sold a variety of items like shelving units, kitchen counter tops, bar tops, conference and kitchen tables, as well as a wine rack that can hold 110 wine bottles.

The hobby-turned-business all started when a neighbor needed cut down a 200-year-old white oak because it was an insurance liability. He and Jones, his best friend since sixth-grade, teamed up to buy the proper equipment and mill it into one solid slab table.

“I’d prefer the trees to grow another two hundred years or whatever,” said Mark Hoffman. “To see an old tree that’s got stories and histories and nails and what not be recycled into something cool, though, is great.”

Running a business can be tough. Running five can be tougher, but Mark and Meghan said they work together to keep it fun and keep together-time a priority (even if it means having dinner at the farm together on longer work days).

Why do they do it? Well, that’s easy to explain: “We are engaged in the community. This is where our businesses are. This is what we love,” said Meghan. “We love this community.”
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Read more articles by Makenzie Schroeder.