Restaurateur Retires At 39, Says 10 Years Of “Not Taking Pennies Adds Up”

No Pennies

Jimmy Canavan's policy is clearly stated.

Poughkeepsie, NY—When Jimmy Canavan started his small deli in 2001, he said he never dreamed he’d earn enough to retire (and comfortably so, thank you very much) in just a decade. He said the reason he’s been able to sell “Canavan’s Canteen” and prepare to move to Southern California can be summed up in one word: pennies.

“I hate pennies. Hate ‘em,” Canavan said between phone calls to his Porsche dealer and his investment banker. “So I decided early on, real early after I opened the deli, that I wasn’t gonna take ‘em. And I haven’t touched a penny in over 10 years.”

And as a bonus, by not giving pennies as change for nearly the entire time he ran the deli, Canavan amassed a fortune three and four cents at a time. “I don’t see why any business owner would ever even consider accepting pennies,” he said.

Canavan said he has encountered his share of irate customers who complained about his no-penny policy. “Aaah, there’s always some idiot thinks he can tell me how to run my place,” he said. “They’ll say, ‘It’s legal tender. You gotta take it.’ Like I’m breaking the law or something by being smart. I just say, ‘The hell I do, you want a sandwich or not? ‘Cuz if not, you can get the hell out of my deli.’ And more often than not, they’d shut the hell up.”

Canavan said he’s not gotten any visits from the federal government yet or letters telling him he’s got to accept pennies. He said he doesn’t expect to, and as soon as the sale of the restaurant is final next month, he “could care less what the government says I gotta take for payment. I’m out, baby!”

Canavan said other money saving tricks he used while running his deli included finding the right suppliers and cultivating good relationships with them. “A good kickback from a questionable cheese vendor is always better than no kickback from a reputable cheese vendor,” he said. Also, he used his deli meat “considerably longer than any other deli owners would dare use them. Expiration dates are really just a guide, I always found.”

Michelle Montford contributed to his article

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