"We had plans to open as soon as we could," says Smoothie King franchisee Greg Murray. "As you're negotiating your leases, you're thinking, 'I'm going to open at this point.' Then, for whatever reason, the lease falls through, and you're back to square one. That part has been a little frustrating for us, but it comes with the territory. It's something you have to expect."
Since April 2001, Murray and his wife Deb have been working, planning and dealing for the opening of their first Smoothie King franchise. Leases fell through and spaces didn't become available, so the Murrays have had to wait and wait and wait for opening day.
But rather than banging their heads or cursing fate, the Murrays, both 42, have made the most of the downtime. "We've just been trying to concentrate on visualizing where we want to be," Greg says. "We can spend a lot of time now on developing business models and discussing what we want this to be, how we want this business to fit into our lifestyle."
The Murrays aren't new to franchising. The couple operated three The Body Shop franchises that they eventually sold back to the company.
After selling the franchises, Greg co-founded a medical equipment company he still operates. The income Greg earns from this business has given the couple the freedom to look for the perfect Boston-area space for their Smoothie King. "At this point, we're lucky I have another business that keeps bread on the table," Greg says.
Particularly when world events put a damper on your growth plans. The Murrays thought Logan International Airport would be the perfect location for a Smoothie King. Spaces were in high demand at the Boston airport, so the Murrays began thinking about kiosks or other non-traditional venues.
After September 11, the idea of opening a franchise in an airport doesn't have the same appeal. "The locations we had been looking at were behind the security checkpoints, and all the economics have changed on those kinds of deals now," Greg says. With only ticketed passengers and authorized staff able to pass checkpoints, customer numbers for airport vendors have dropped.
The Murrays are cautiously optimistic about Logan and would still be interested in opening a franchise there if the right space became available. "That dust has to settle, then you have to figure out what's a sensible cost per square foot, what the traffic counts are going to be, how the business has changed," Greg says. "I believe traffic is going to come back, but it's going to be a different pattern."
In the meantime, the Murrays are in discussions with a landlord and could open their franchise as soon as the end of March. During the searching and negotiating, Smoothie King corporate keeps in touch with the couple. "Smoothie King has been very good," Greg says, "I get a call probably every other week from the director of real estate and a monthly call from the vice president of business development."
Though it may get a little frustrating, this opening delay hasn't been complete disaster for the Murrays. Maybe it would be if they weren't using this time to their advantage. "If you take [downtime] to really develop a business plan, you'll have your goals already set," Greg says. "Then you'll be ready once the doors open and things really start rolling."