Bangor-based Coffee News franchise named ‘Best of the Best’ as it celebrates 20 years


Chances are you’ve seen a copy of Coffee News at a restaurant or in a waiting room. Perhaps you’ve picked up the one-page paper and read the trivia and horoscopes or looked at the ads.

It may not look like a big deal, but that 11-by-17-inch coffee-colored paper has been ranked the No. 1 Advertising Franchise for the 12th year in a row by Entrepreneur magazine and is read by more than 5 million people in 18 countries every week.

This past week has been an especially busy one for the Bangor, Maine-based business after MSN featured Coffee News’ inclusion in “These 101 Franchises are the Best of the Best.”

According to Bill Buckley, who operates the company with his wife, Sue-Ann, and five other employees, “We had 107 applications for new franchises in a 24-hour period after that story came out. That’s more than we typically get in a month.”

Coffee News was born in 1988 from an idea that Jean Daum of Manitoba, Canada, had after waiting for her food to arrive at a restaurant. Daum was looking for something to read to keep her occupied while she was waiting. It occurred to her that restaurants should provide patrons with something to read and a place for local businesses to advertise.

Buckley discovered Coffee News while visiting Canada and decided to launch a  franchise in Bangor, Maine. He published his first issue 20 years ago in July of 1995. From there he expanded his business into other locations including Ellsworth.

Daum took note of Buckley’s success as she contemplated expanding the Coffee News franchise from Canada into the United States. Due to the complexity of the laws, she instead approached Buckley about taking over the operation in the U.S. That was in 1996.

Buckley bought out Daum in 2008 and now runs the Canadian operation and Coffee News worldwide. Today there are approximately 800 Coffee News franchises in 20 countries, including New Zealand, Australia, Spain, Portugal and South Africa.

All of the Coffee News franchisees are supported by Buckley’s team, located at One Cumberland Place in downtown Bangor.

courtesy of Coffee News (R)

One of the reasons that Coffee News has been ranked as the one of the “Best of the Best” franchises is the relatively low start-up cost. A franchise can be bought for approximately $10,000. For that price, a new franchisee is given a defined territory.

Franchise owners are responsible for publishing and distributing the publication in their assigned territory. They make their money by selling ads in the publication.

The Coffee News team provides business support, training, mentoring and content to help their franchisees be successful.

Approximately four times a year, new franchisees from all over the world come to Bangor to attend a three-day “Coffee News College” and learn what it takes to successfully run a Coffee News franchise.

Not everyone who applies to purchase a franchise is approved. Each application is reviewed and applicants are interviewed to determine if they are a good fit. Buckley says they look for people with “passion, a positive attitude, strong work ethic and an entrepreneurial spirit.”

“Sales experience is a plus,” he adds.

One might wonder how this business can continue to grow and thrive in a day when many people now turn to their phones to keep them company while waiting for a meal to arrive. According to Buckley, “People still pick up Coffee News and enjoy reading it because it’s pure entertainment.

“We design Coffee News to get results for our advertisers. They also like how affordable it is to advertise with us,” he adds.

Coffee News has no plans to slow down. Applications continue to come into their Bangor office every day.

“We have sold a lot of territories — but there is still a lot left. We are a long way from reaching saturation,” says Buckley.

So the next time you pick up a Coffee News, know that it is a Bangor business that is creating jobs and opportunities for people worldwide.

Deb Neuman

About Deb Neuman

Deb thinks Maine is a great place to do business and loves telling the stories of Mainers proving that it can be done! An entrepreneur at heart, she enjoys helping others with the same drive to create and innovate!