Johnnie Martin Teaches Her Granddaughters Entrepreneurship While Bringing the Best Dogs and Desserts to the Community
Story by Katrice Williams
Photography by Emily Roscher
Johnnie Johnnie Martin first opened the windows to her food truck in August 2019 and it has been full steam ahead ever since. The Effingham native has been a foodie for quite a while. With prior experience in the restaurant industry, she has been providing customers with delectable dishes for many years. Her mom has always been her biggest inspiration.
“I’ve been doing this all my life. Cooking is my passion. I learned how to bake at about age 13. I can remember my mom teaching me how to sift flour to make cinnamon rolls,” she says.
Johnnie also obtained a separate baking license which allowed her to create her home-based dessert business: J’s Heavenly Sweets & Treats. Customers are able to enjoy an array of different palate-pleasing treats. Most of her baking for her food truck is prepared at her home business and then transported to her food truck.
G-Ma’s is Born
Johnnie entrusts the managing of the dessert portion of her business to her granddaughters. Her food truck is named in honor of her role as a grandma, or “G-ma.”
Prior to purchasing her food truck, Johnnie had been motivated to make her entrepreneurial dream a reality for some time, especially after gaining guardianship of her granddaughters. She, too, was driven to pursue one of her biggest professional aspirations; she wanted to do what she loved to do—cooking good food for others to enjoy.
Knowing that a brick-and-mortar establishment would be expensive and time consuming to start up, a food truck seemed to check all the boxes for her. Business has been booming ever since.
G-Ma’s Express Hot Dogs, Desserts & More can be seen all around Guyton and surrounding areas, including Rincon, Bloomingdale, Pooler, Bluffton and Ridgeland.
Quality Food on the Go
Johnnie enjoys selling good food for customers to enjoy on the go. That element of convenience is a big plus for those desiring a quick, filling meal, whether business professionals taking a lunch break or hungry kids that just can’t wait for dinner.
Johnnie knows that quality counts. She takes pride in providing her customers with products made from quality ingredients. She is serious about exceeding her customers’ expectations for food and service.
“Everything is fresh. It’s all cooked at all the right temperatures,” she says.
Johnnie believes that food that is good to you can also be good for you, so she tries to include many healthy selections on her menu. The menu does not include any fried food products.
Over the past few years, Johnnie has noticed that every area has their top picks or best-selling items.
“Effingham residents like the Mac & Cheese Dog, which is a 100% beef hot dog on a buttery bun, topped with mac & cheese,” she says.
Other mouth-watering hot dogs include:
- The Kraut Dog, topped with a generous amount of tasty sauerkraut and mustard;
- The Slaw Dog, garnished with fresh, creamy coleslaw;
- The Pastrami Dog, topped with pastrami, barbecue sauce and mozzarella cheese;
- Johnnie’s Boston Butt Dog, topped with shredded pork, barbecue sauce and cheddar cheese;
- The Cheese it up Dog, topped with crispy, crumbled bacon and cheddar cheese;
- The Frito Chip Dog, covered with cheese sauce and crunchy Frito chips.
- Specialty sausage dogs include:
- The Hot Diggity Sausage Dog, a tasty, premium sausage smothered in onions and peppers, and
- The Back it up Sausage Dog, topped with french fried onions and mustard.
Other menu items may vary, changing depending on the location. Some of these may include:
- Crab dip
- Italian meatballs
- Chicken and waffles casserole (breakfast)
- Roasted chive potatoes.
Additional side items include:
- Side salad
- Cape Cod Potato Chips
Some of G-Ma’s popular sweet treats include:
- Grandma’s Classic Pound Cake (made from scratch),
- Grandma’s Homemade Banana Pudding,
- Red Velvet and Blue Velvet Cake in a Cup.
“The red velvet sells before I can let my window up,” Johnnie jokes.
Quality Service Counts
Johnnie knows that great food must be accompanied by great service. She is proud to honor her guarantee of quality food and service. It is taken so seriously that even if a customer accidentally drops a hot dog on the ground, another is prepared for them.
“The service has to be dynamic. I want everyone to feel welcome when they come to G-Ma’s,” she says.
What the Future Holds
Looking ahead, Johnnie is planning to open a new food truck in the very near future. She is excited about being able to offer services to and satisfy even more customers.
Johnnie is usually invited to many of the areas where she operates, often operating during the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. She encourages anyone who would like to find out about G-Ma’s Express’ schedule or any other information to visit G-Ma’s Express Hot Dogs, Desserts & More on Facebook. She welcomes customers to message her, assuring them that she will answer back in a timely manner.
Gratitude and Appreciation
Johnnie is a member of the Effingham Chamber of Commerce. She appreciates all the assistance they have provided her, giving her a wealth of essential information that has helped her in all her business endeavors.
“The knowledgeable staff there have helped me anytime I’ve needed it,” she says.
Johnnie is also grateful for Guyton Mayor Russ Deen and his family. “The mayor has been a lot of help for me,” she says, adding that they have been very kind and supportive to her as a business owner.
Johnnie is incredibly thankful for Jan Southern, owner of JDelSURMarketing and CEO/Publisher of Effingham/Pooler Magazine, who has been a huge inspiration for some time now, especially as a notably successful businesswoman herself.
“Jan has been such a big inspiration to me. She has really just been so encouraging,” Johnnie says.
Johnnie appreciates all the various women in business in Effingham that have shown their support, many entrusting her to come and be a part of their events.
She mentions, in particular, DeeDee Morris, owner of Ellen Claire Soapery, who is very supportive, always allowing Johnnie to bring her business out to her location.
“She always invites me out. She is an inspiring woman in business,” Johnnie says. Johnnie hopes that she is an inspiration to other women striving to make their professional dreams a reality, as she encourages them: “You have to really want it. Don’t give up. You have to keep climbing.”