For the love of coffee and sandwiches | News

“Locally owned” and “family business” are likely not the first words to come to mind when people think of a fast-food franchise or chain coffee shop. However, one West Valley family is looking to change all that — one coffee, sandwich and good deed at a time. 

Meet the Walters family. These Midwestern transplants own three Jimmy John’s locations — two in Glendale and one in Buckeye — as well as the Human Bean coffee shop on 19th Avenue in North Phoenix. 

Long before becoming familiar with the Jimmy John’s brand in their native Detroit, family patriarch Jeff Walters learned the true value of hard work growing up in a large family supported by a single income. When he wasn’t in school or at one of his jobs, he was dedicated to sports — something he passed on to his two sons as he coached their baseball teams while they grew up. 

“It’s something I can’t put a price tag on,” Jeff said. “I love being out there coaching, influencing and teaching kids how to work hard for a purpose.”

It was while coaching one of his local high school teams that Jeff became familiar with the Jimmy John’s brand. The local franchise joined the team in raising funds for the upcoming season. Impressed with their involvement in the community, there was little question of where the family would turn to when they decided to go into business together after moving to Peoria four years ago. The family later opened the Human Bean in March 2023. 

“We did a little bit of research and just really loved what the brand stood for,” Jeff said. Started in Oregon by a duo of husband-and-wife teams over 20 years ago, the brand’s mission is grounded in integrity, community and quality. 

As for how the family runs the operation, Jeff described it as a “kind of a divide and conquer thing.” His two sons work largely behind the scenes, with Nick handling the accounting and Zack on IT support. Daughter-in-law Mackenzie handles the payroll, while soon-to-be daughter-in-law Monique is teamed up with his wife, Kelly, on the day-to-day operations of the coffee shop. Jeff also fondly refers to Kelly as the face of the franchise — known for greeting guests with a smile and striking up conversations with just about anyone. Jeff handles the contractors, landlords and any opportunities to grow and support their businesses. 

Despite enduring setbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic, including supply and employee shortages, the family has enjoyed success. However, no amount of it ever lets them forget the generosity shown to one high school baseball team so many years ago or another couple’s commitment to inspiring “authentic human connections with a bean on top.” 

“We do a lot of stuff in the community because they’re the ones who support us,” Jeff said. Some of their charitable work includes following in the footsteps of that original Detroit Jimmy John’s franchise and sponsoring local school sports teams. Those include Mountain Ridge High School, Verrado High School, Desert Edge High School, Deer Valley High School and Bellair Academy, among others. 


Employees posing at the Walters family Jimmy John’s location in Buckeye.

They’ve raised money for St. Mary’s Food Bank and shown support for men’s health care through the Human Bean’s “Mochas for Men” campaign. They also recently sponsored Soldier’s Best Friend. “They train dogs to fit them with soldiers with PTSD,” Kelly said. 

They also give back to their employees. “We’ve also set up some scholarships for the employees that are advancing, taking on college courses,” Jeff said. He knows firsthand how difficult it can be to balance school and a job. 

“We really get to know our employees, their families and so forth,” Jeff said. “We treat them as if they’re one of our own.”

“I hate calling them employees because they’re an extension to our family,” Kelly added. 

It makes sense. Communities have a powerful way of coming together when they know the stories and struggles of their neighbors. For the Walters family, that’s most clearly seen in their “Coffee for a Cure” event. “We donate 100% of sales,” Jeff said. “We partnered with HonorHealth and expanded that to a portion of our Jimmy John’s sales that same day. We donated close to $5,000 to HonorHealth just from that event alone.”

Seeing everybody show up to the Human Bean wearing pink, buying a coffee, and simply sharing their stories of love, loss and overcoming was a powerful experience, especially for Kelly, who has a pink ribbon tattoo for breast cancer awareness. 

“We lost our sister-in-law to breast cancer, so it really hits home,” Kelly said. 

“I think everybody, every family, in one way or another has been affected by cancer,” Jeff added. 

He estimated that their franchises raised around $10,000 for charity in 2023 alone, and for his family, there’s always more to do and more to give. That’s why they plan to take over at least four more Jimmy John’s in 2024 and maybe even add another coffee shop to the mix. However, Kelly stressed that expansion will never come at the price of maintaining their personal touch. 

“We want to have a personal attachment to each store,” she said. “Everybody knows us. When somebody calls off, Jeff will go in and drive or I’ll go in and make sandwiches, or my son will go in and drive. We’re always in the store helping out.”

“We’ll never be those people that don’t show up,” Jeff said. 

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