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Doctor, Doctor

The big cheesesteak, quick fix
July 1, 1999
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/17908

From wobbly chairs to dog-chewed table legs, Memphis-based franchise Furniture Medic touts its precision repair and patented restoration and refinishing processes as prescriptions for damaged furniture. The mobile franchise system features on-site furniture repair for both residential and commercial customers.

In 1998, Albuquerque, New Mexico, residents William McBride, 30, and his wife, Leslie, 32, opened the area's second Furniture Medic location. Although they enjoyed their jobs--Leslie was a researcher at a university, and William was a police officer--"We knew no matter how hard we worked, we were never going to make much more than we were making. If we wanted to have a [decent] retirement, we needed to do something on our own," says Leslie.

Ironically, the other Furniture Medic franchise in Albuquerque is owned by Leslie's parents. "We saw how great they were doing and thought this was something we should look into," Leslie says. After further research, they made their decision. Furniture Medic financed a portion of their start-up costs, which totaled roughly $75,000. After taking out a second mortgage, they plunked down $10,000 and bought a van, repair equipment and repair products.

After two weeks of training at headquarters, "we hit the ground running," says Leslie. Their lucky break? The timing of their start-up coincided with the release of their ad in the new Yellow Pages--the source of 85 percent of their customer base. The couple exceeded income expectations in their first year, with 1998 sales totaling $79,000. Says Leslie, "We've loved every minute of it."

Start-up costs for a Furniture Medic franchise begin at $60,000; the company is looking for new franchisees worldwide.

Say Cheesesteak

Charley Shin was still in college when he opened the first Charley's Steakery across the street from Ohio State University in Columbus in 1986. At age 22, Shin wasn't thinking "franchise." He just wanted a single, successful eatery. But all that changed when Ohio State students got a taste of his signature product--the Philly Steak--and his full menu of subs and salads. "We had a line [going] out the door in the first week," Shin recalls. Sales of more than $220,000 that first year were all the proof Shin needed to know he had a winning idea.

Part of the start-up fun was in experimenting with various sandwich recipes and other menu items. "I brought almost every friend home and fed them," Shin says. "They loved me."

Charley's Steakery features exhibition-style cooking, says Shin, "which means the grill is right in front of the counter, so customers can see their steaks being sizzled right in front of their eyes and all the toppings going on [their sandwiches]."

Today, the Columbus-based franchisor boasts more than 100 franchises in 22 states and Canada and 1998 sales of $25 million. Shin boils down his franchise mega-success simply: "I owe my mother for what I am," he says of the woman who loaned him her life savings of $50,000 so he could get started.

"As long as we [continue to] serve great food and benefit our partners and employees, we'll keep on growing," adds Shin, who's looking for new franchisees nationwide. Start-up costs for a Charley's Steakery franchise are in the $150,000 range. (Franchisees must supply one-third of that in equity or cash.)

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