Restaurateur Michael Jackson Thrives in Paterson

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Mike Jackson of Jacksonville restaurant in Paterson As a former professional quarterback, restaurateur Micheal Jackson is used to being on the offensive and knows how to avoid being tackled by the competition. He has parlayed this same tactical and no nonsense approach from his days on the scrimmage line into how he runs his upscale bar and restaurant business, Jacksonville, in the economically impoverished city of Paterson, New Jersey.

Jackson, 42, says running and maintaining a successful small business in the beleaguered city of Paterson is a challenge that, in some ways, rival his days as a player for the Arena Football League (AFL). He was a star quarterback for the now defunct New Jersey Dogs in 2000 and 2001. He opened the restaurant in 2003 and revenues for the posh bar and eatery will top $2.2 million this year—about the same as 2013.

A lifelong resident of the industrial town, nicknamed the “Silk City,” because of its once lucrative silk industry, Jackson contends financial tenacity and a hands-on approach to running his business have helped him weather the economic turmoil that has pummeled the city of Paterson.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly one quarter of all Patersonians live at or below the poverty level. The federal poverty threshold for a single person is $11,490; for a family of four, including two children, the poverty line is an annual family income of $23,550. In Paterson, the number of people living at or below the poverty level is 244 percent higher than anywhere else in the state.

Jackson is steadfast about creating a budget, sticking to it and rebuilding his once stellar credit rating—that took a big hit in 2009 when business slowed and the bank all but eliminated a six-figure business line of credit.

“I nearly lost everything,” Jackson said in a recent interview with TNJ.com. “I had to restructure my debt and reorganize my business structure.”  It took depleting his savings of about $250,000 and other sources to maintain and renovate the property into what has now become, Jacksonville.  Jackson said he meets with an accountant and financial adviser monthly to discuss the operating budget and expenses of the business.

Jacksonville has five full-time employees and 20 part timers. The bi-weekly payroll averages between $10,000 and $15,000. Celebrities that have graced the restaurant over the years include, former President Bill Clinton; New York Giants wide receiver and Paterson native Victor Cruz; comedians, David Allen Grier and Tommy Davidson; and gospel star Donnie McClurkin.

Lastly, despite the dire financial situation in the city of Paterson, Jackson says he will continue to make his hometown the place for his business to continue to thrive and grow. Partnered for 18 years and the father of five children, Jackson said, “Paterson is home and we have to support each other as African American entrepreneurs if we want to change things and make Paterson a more prosperous place to live and do business.”