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Let the Good Times Roll

Franchising isn't just about burgers and windshield repair (not that there's anything wrong with that). Nowadays, it's about having fun.
April 1, 2000
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/23808

Hey, remember when you were in high school, and your friends would invite you to a big kegger, where there'd be a live blues band, a magic show and all the submarine sandwiches you could eat? "It'll be fun," they'd say. "You need to get out more." Then you'd arrive--and there'd be three people there, playing some inane drinking game in the corner, offering you a cold can of PBR and blasting Led Zeppelin to make it sound like a real party. Real fun.

For many of you, the idea of buying a franchise sounds about as much fun as that "kegger." You keep hearing about how much fun you'll have--then you get there, some guy in a suit hands you a stack of papers to fill out, and you're on your merry way to a rip-roarin' time washing windows in Nowheresville, USA.

Fortunately, however, plenty of franchisors were just as traumatized by those high school parties and thought up ways to make owning a franchise just as enjoyable as starting your own venture from scratch. On the next five pages, we spotlight 70 franchise opportunities in a variety of happening industries and with varying startup costs that prove "franchising" and "fun" are no longer mutually exclusive. Of course, always do your own detective work before investing any money or signing any agreements, as this listing is not intended to recommend or endorse any particular opportunity. And have fun!

It's Platonic

So what if it's not brand-spanking new? There's nothing like getting a good bargain on pre-owned designer goods. Certified bargain shopper and entrepreneur Mollie Garden has known this for a long time, and she's about to capitalize. Planning to open a Plato's Closet franchise this summer in St. Cloud, Minnesota, Garden wants to take the reuse-and-recycle philosophy to a new level. Plato's Closet markets hip clothes to teens who want to be fashionable on part-time paychecks. Garden decided on Plato's Closet because of its fresh approach to the used-clothing market.

Though she hasn't yet opened the business, Garden is looking forward to choosing and buying the groovy merchandise. "To have inventory coming in and going through it on a daily basis will be fun," says Garden, 28. With designer names like DKNY, Calvin Klein and Abercrombie & Fitch to sift through, she'll be in fashion heaven. Even the more challenging aspects of the startup phase are fun. At press time, she was securing capital and getting set to sign a lease on a location in St. Cloud--yet still finding the whole process thrilling. Be it good or bad, it will be all hers, and the bungee-jumping, skydiving wife and mother of two is all about adventurous undertakings.

After four years as product manager at a software developer, Garden is ready for a change. Though it's not all fun and glamour, she's hooked. "It's going after something [I've] always wanted to do," she says. Spoken like a true entrepreneur.

Dinner and a Movie

There's nothing better than scarfing down a plate of french fries while watching Ben Stiller and Cameron Diaz yuk it up on the screen. No longer do moviegoers have to wait for their favorite flick to come out on video--at the restaurant franchise Cinema Grill, they can sit back in their booths and munch while watching new classics like There's Something About Mary.

Jody and Lori Wiedenhoeft, 30 and 28, respectively, were living in Minneapolis when they first discovered Cinema Grill. The dinner-and-a-movie concept wasn't new--but dinner and a movie as a singular special event was.

They started thinking about opening a Cinema Grill of their own in 1995, when they were both working as accountants. And though they didn't know the restaurant or movie theatre business, they decided to take that leap in 1997 within a franchise setting, where they could find support and structure yet still be entrepreneurs. Jody and Lori have fun deciding which flicks they're going to show. Generally, date movies, romantic comedies and fun films work the best. Mary was one of their biggest draws last year, along with Notting Hill and Big Daddy. Says Jody, "I really get into entertainment [publications] and track how movies are doing and what movie stars are hot [at the box office]." Their Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Cinema Grill usually shows movies about eight to 12 weeks after their theatrical release.

And selling their fair share of cinematic ambience in 1999, the Wiedenhoefts know the show must and will go on.

Put Me In, Coach!

How many home businesses require entrepreneurs to watch and enjoy sports?

Collegiate Sports of America (CSA) is a pioneer in the sports biz, requiring sports viewing and appreciation for success. CSA franchisees Ron and Marsha Barnes (below), both 33, found they could combine the best of all worlds as they helped young people gain sports scholarships to colleges all over the country. The Barnses ultimately act as liasions between college recruiters and high school athletes ready to graduate.

It all started in a brief meeting with CSA franchisors at a Cincinnati franchise show. They began their homebased franchise as a part-time gig in October 1998, while still keeping their jobs as restaurant managers. By the end of 1999, the couple was devoting all their time to CSA.

There are many rewarding aspects of their CSA business--such as being able to stay at home with their children (ages 1 and 3), and spending time learning about sports and NCAA recruiting rules. But the best part, according to Marsha, is "having the young athletes call us when they hear from a school they've been looking at. [It's the] excitement in their voice."

And while they feel each athlete is special, Marsha remembers one young woman who particularly benefited from the Barnes' CSA expertise. The student's father had passed away, and her mother was reluctant to trust anyone with her daughter's future. But Ron and Marsha immediately set the family at ease, marketing the young Volleyball player's talent with gusto. The girl received a full ride and, says Marsha, "is doing very well."

With projected 2000 sales of nearly $80,000, Ron and Marsha are not only in the game--they're hitting the ball out of the park.

Listings 1-23

Fun Stuff
Listing compiled by Lee Houston

Boats, Bikes and Automobiles

Boomer McLoud
(860) 632-4874
Car audio sales/installation
Year began: 1996
Year fran.: 1996
Cost: $37.5K-235.3K
Franchises: 56; Co.-owned: 1

EagleRider Motorcycle Rental
(310) 320-3456
Motorcycle rentals
Year began: 1992
Year fran.: 1997
Cost: $250K-700K
Franchises: 4; Co.-owned: 4

Hubcap Masters Int'l. Inc.
(888) 888-4922/(615) 885-3620
Custom wheels & hubcaps
Year began: 1993
Year fran.: 1994
Cost: $75K
Franchises: 29; Co.-owned: 1

Naut-A-Care Marine Services Inc.
(949) 631-2660
Boat oil changes & bilge steam cleaning
Year began: 1991
Year fran.: 1995
Cost: $59.3K-197.6K
Franchises: 1; Co.-owned: 2

Oil Butler Int'l. Corp.
(908) 687-3283
Mobile oil change/quick lube/windshield repair
Year began: 1987
Year fran.: 1991
Cost: $15K-40K
Franchises: 137; Co.-owned: 1

Ryan Engine Exchange
(303) 232-0012
Remanufactured engine installation
Year began: 1989;
Year fran.: 1997
Cost: $112K
Franchises: 0; Co.-owned: 1

Super Clean Yacht Service
(949) 646-2990
Pleasure boat cleaning & detailing
Year began: 1984
Year fran.: 1999
Cost: $23.2K-70.3K
Franchises: 0; Co.-owned: 1

Total Car Franchising Corp.
(800) 726-5677/(678)243-2000
Mobile automotive appearance services
Year began: 1989
Year fran.: 1991
Cost: $47K-148K
Franchises: 261; Co.-owned: 0

At Your Service

Bevinco Bar Systems Ltd.
(888) 238-4626/(416) 490-6266
Liquor inventory-control service
Year began: 1987
Year fran.: 1990
Cost: $29K-32K
Franchises: 158; Co.-owned: 1

Express Services Inc.
(800) 652-6400/(405) 840-5000
Staffing & P.E.O. services
Year began: 1983
Year fran.: 1985
Cost: $90K-135K
Franchises: 393; Co.-owned: 0

Shred-It America Inc.
(905) 829-2794
Mobile paper shredding & recycling
Year began: 1988
Year fran.: 1992
Cost: $225K
Franchises: 49; Co.-owned: 19

Just Kidding

Dancercise Kids
(800) 613-8231
Dance instruction at child-care centers
Year began: 1988
Year fran.: 1999
Cost: $16.8K-33.3K
Franchises: 0; Co.-owned: 9

Gymboree
(800) 520-7529/(650) 579-0600
Parent/child play program
Year began: 1976
Year fran.: 1978
Cost: $80K-150K
Franchises: 388; Co.-owned: 24

Gymsters Inc.
(408) 997-6997
Mobile children's fitness services
Year began: 1980
Year fran.: 1988
Cost: $19.8K-24.5K
Franchises: 7; Co.-owned: 1

J.W. Tumbles, A Children's Gym
(800) 886-2532
Children's gyms/parties
Year began: 1985
Year fran.: 1993
Cost: $98.5K-117.5K
Franchises: 4; Co.-owned: 2

Kinderdance Int'l. Inc.
(800) 554-2334/(407) 242-0590
Children's movement/educational programs
Year began: 1979
Year fran.: 1985
Cost: $9.4K-20.6K
Franchises: 57; Co.-owned: 1

Kumon Math & Reading Centers
(800) 222-6284
Supplemental education
Year began: 1958
Year fran.: 1958
Cost: $5.6K
Franchises: 24,256; Co.-owned: 20

Learning Express
(978) 889-1000
Specialty toy store
Year began: 1987
Year fran.: 1987
Cost: $203K-354K
Franchises: 160; Co.-owned: 0

The Little Gym
(888) 228-2878/(480) 948-2878
Child development/fitness program
Year began: 1976
Year fran.: 1992
Cost: $125.6K-168.4K
Franchises: 68; Co.-owned: 6

Little Princess Tea Parties
(800) 489-0832
Children's tea parties
Year began: 1997
Year fran.: 1998
Cost: $12.4K-16.5K
Franchises: 0; Co.-owned: 1

The Mad Science Group
(800) 586-5231
Science activities for children
Year began: 1985
Year fran.: 1995
Cost: $60K-70K
Franchises: 118; Co.-owned: 0

Odyssey Art Centers
(914) 631-7148
Art classes
Year began: 1974
Year fran.: 1995
Cost: $28K-54K
Franchises: 3; Co.-owned: 1

Pee Wee Workout
(440) 946-7888
Preschool fitness program
Year began: 1986; Year fran.: 1988
Cost: $1.8K
Franchises: 20; Co.-owned: 1

Listings 24-44

Tech It Out

Computer Doctor Franchise Systems Inc.
(888) 297-2292/(605) 225-4122
Computer sales & repair services
Year began: 1992
Year fran.: 1996
Cost: $38.9K-170.7K
Franchises: 22; Co.-owned: 2

Quik Internet
(949) 548-2171/(702) 841-2860
Internet services
Year began: 1995
Year fran.: 1996
Cost: $55K-70K
Franchises: 155; Co.-owned: 0

Support On-Site Computer Services
(949) 768-3398
On-site business/residential computer services
Year began: 1997
Year fran.: 1998
Cost: $21.2K-51.8K
Franchises: 1; Co.-owned: 0

Z Land.com
(949) 544-4000
Internet services
Year began: 1995
Year fran.: 1996
Cost: $114K-158K
Franchises: 27; Co.-owned: 1

Just Eat It

Auntie Anne's Inc.
(717) 442-4766
Hand-rolled soft pretzels
Year began: 1988
Year fran.: 1989
Cost: $156K-252K
Franchises: 620; Co.-owned: 20

Buffalo Wild Wings
(800) 499-9586
Buffalo wings & sandwiches
Year began: 1982
Year fran.: 1991
Cost: $522K-871K
Franchises: 80; Co.-owned: 24

Cinema Grill
(404) 250-9536
Combination restaurant & theater
Year began: 1975
Year fran.: 1980
Cost: $500K
Franchises: 19; Co.-owned: 1

Desert Moon Cafe
(914) 267-3300
Southwestern food
Year began: 1992
Year fran.: 1999
Cost: $184K-356K
Franchises: 0; Co.-owned: 5

Domino's Pizza Inc.
(734) 930-3030
Fast-food pizza
Year began: 1960
Year fran.: 1967
Cost: $98.9K-348.2K
Franchises: 5,713; Co.-owned: 647

Drip
(212) 875-1032/(212) 665-1100
Coffee bar
Year began: 1996
Year fran.: 1998
Cost: $100K-300K
Franchises: 0; Co.-owned: 1

Icebox/Soupbox
(773) 935-3960/(773) 935-9800
Combination soup/frozen dessert restaurant
Year began: 1995
Year fran.: 1998
Cost: $69.5K-174.5K
Franchises: 0; Co.-owned: 1

Quikava
(781) 749-4242
Double drive-thru gourmet coffee & baked goods
Year began: 1990
Year fran.: 1993
Cost: $272.5K-425.9K
Franchises: 50; Co.-owned: 6

Sonic Drive In Restaurants
(405) 280-7654
Drive-in restaurant
Year began: 1954
Year fran.: 1959
Cost: $530.8K-672.8K
Franchises: 1,699; Co.-owned: 282

Steak-Out Franchising Inc.
(770) 493-6110
Charbroiled steaks/burgers/chicken delivery
Year began: 1986
Year fran.: 1988
Cost: $199.7K-291K
Franchises: 85; Co.-owned: 3

Wing Zone Franchise Corp.
(404) 875-5045
Buffalo wings take-out & delivery
Year began: 1991
Year fran.: 1999
Cost: $111K-165.5K
Franchises: 2; Co.-owned: 5

The Frozen Aisle

Bahama Buck's Original Shaved Ice Co.
(480) 894-4408
Shaved ice & fruit smoothies
Year began: 1989
Year fran.: 1993
Cost: $85K-145K
Franchises: 3; Co.-owned: 5

Dairy Queen
(800) 285-8515/(612) 830-0200
Year began: 1940
Year fran.: 1944
Cost: $169.6K-622.3K+
Franchises: 5,833; Co.-owned: 59

Morrone's Italian Ices & Homemade Ice Cream
(888) 667-76637
Italian ices & homemade ice cream
Year began: 1925
Year fran.: 1996
Cost: $127.5K-164.5K
Franchises: 17; Co.-owned: 2

Rita's Water Ice
(800) 677-7482/(215) 633-9899
Italian ice, custard & gelati
Year began: 1984
Year fran.: 1989
Cost: $133K-245K
Franchises: 210; Co.-owned: 3

Listings 45-70

Smooth It Out

Bananas
(718) 494-8888
Smoothies
Year began: 1976
Year fran.: 1981
Cost: $87.7K-192.5K
Franchises: 74; Co.-owned: 2

Frozen Fusion
(480) 367-5579
Smoothies
Year began: 1995
Year fran.: 1996
Cost: $140.5K-258K
Franchises: 21; Co.-owned: 4

Jabooka Jooce
(801) 453-0361
Smoothies
Year began: 1999
Year fran.: 1999
Cost: $80.4K-192.7K
Franchises: 0; Co.-owned: 2

Juice CaBana
(310) 364-5220
Vegetable/fruit juices, smoothies & bagels
Year began: 1998
Year fran.: 1999
Cost: $97.4K-151K
Franchises: 0; Co.-owned: 3

Juice Kitchen Inc.
(303) 573-7060
Smoothies, juices, snacks
Year began: 1999
Year fran.: 1999
Cost: $138.6K-216K
Franchises: 20; Co.-owned: 10

Maui Wowi Smoothies
(888) 862-8555
Mobile smoothie carts
Year began: 1983
Year fran.: 1997
Cost: $24.4K-54.6K
Franchises: 38; Co.-owned: 1

Planet Smoothie
(404) 239-0009
Smoothies, sandwiches, vitamins
Year began: 1995
Year fran.: 1998
Cost: $82K-136K
Franchises: 87; Co.-owned: 5

Smoothie King
(800) 577-4200/(504) 467-4006
Smoothies & healthy products
Year began: 1987
Year fran.: 1988
Cost: $150K-207K
Franchises: 202; Co.-owned: 8

Good Sports

Collegiate Sports of America
(800) 600-7518
Athletic recruiting services
Year began: 1996; Year fran.: 1998
Cost: $16.5K-40.4K
Franchises: 11; Co.-owned: 0

Power Kickbox
(800) 758-3122
Kickboxing fitness classes
Year began: 1983
Year fran.: 1999
Cost: $2.5K-12.5K
Franchises: 15; Co.-owned: 2

Soccer Post Int'l. Franchise Corp.
(914) 235-9161
Soccer retail store
Year began: 1978; Year fran.: 1991
Cost: $147K-181.5K
Franchises: 24; Co.-owned: 4

Triple Crown Sports
(970) 223-6644
Amateur sports events
Year began: 1982
Year fran.: 1997
Cost: $19.5K-53K
Franchises: 8; Co.-owned: 3

All the Rest

The Bone Appetit Bakery
(800) 865-2378/(402) 434-5620
Gourmet bakery & boutique for dogs
Year began: 1996
Year fran.: 1997
Cost: $35.3K-74.5K
Franchises: 23; Co.-owned: 0

Christmas Decor Inc.
(800) 687-9551
Holiday & event decorating services
Year began: 1984
Year fran.: 1996
Cost: $17.6K-37.4K
Franchises: 230; Co.-owned: 0

Cookies By Design/Cookie Bouquet
(800) 945-2665/(972) 398-9536
Cookie arrangements & cookies
Year began: 1983
Year fran.: 1987
Cost: $80K-145K
Franchises: 192; Co.-owned: 1

Color Me Mine Inc.
(818) 989-8404
Paint-your-own-ceramics studios
Year began: 1992
Year fran.: 1996
Cost: $132.4K-199.5K
Franchises: 40; Co.-owned: 4

Complete Music
(800) 843-3866/(402) 339-0001
Mobile DJ entertainment service
Year began: 1974
Year fran.: 1983
Cost: $17.7K-46.7K
Franchises: 150; Co.-owned: 1

Earth Graphics
(877) 327-8441/(336) 854-2060
Landscape design, digital imaging services
Year began: 1994
Year fran.: 1999
Cost: $34.1K-40.3K
Franchises: 0; Co.-owned: 2

Faces
(905) 569-8989
Cosmetics
Year began: 1974
Year fran.: 1980
Cost: $77K-109.5K
Franchises: 79; Co.-owned: 14

Flamingo a Friend Inc.
(205) 870-1315
Special-occasion yard decoration
Year began: 1994
Year fran.: 1998
Cost: $10K
Franchises: 2; Co.-owned: 3

Music-Go-Round
(800) 269-4076/(612) 520-8500
Musical instruments
Year began: 1986
Year fran.: 1994
Cost: $186.4K-254.9K
Franchises: 70; Co.-owned: 8

Plato's Closet
(800) 269-4081/(612) 520-8500
Clothing & accessories for teenagers
Year began: 1998
Year fran.: 1999
Cost: $97.3K-178.8K
Franchises: 4; Co.-owned: 1

The Right One
(800) 348-3283
Dating service
Year began: 1990
Year fran.: 1999
Cost: $98.4K-184.9K
Franchises: 9; Co.-owned: 8

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
(800) 438-7623/(970) 259-0554
Chocolate & confections
Year began: 1981
Year fran.: 1982
Cost: $113.5K-213.5K
Franchises: 185; Co.-owned: 35

Snap-on Tools
(800) 775-7630
Professional tools & equipment
Year began: 1920
Year fran.: 1991
Cost: $121.6K-209K
Franchises: 3,008; Co.-owned: 155

Sport Clips
(800) 872-4247
Sports-themed hair salons for men
Year began: 1993
Year fran.: 1995
Cost: $98K-166.5K
Franchises: 25; Co.-owned: 4

TriVideom Productions Inc.
(888) 490-8360/(210) 479-6900
Video keepsakes, digital media products
Year began: 1998
Year fran.: 1998
Cost: $46.6K-156.1K
Franchises: 10; Co.-owned: 1