Harrien Clark has always had a soft spot for sandwiches. As a 19-year-old McDonald's store manager, he met his future wife over Big Macs while she worked as the restaurant's cashier.
After 28 years under the Golden Arches, Clark, 47, has moved from Quarter Pounders to Blimpie subs. The first franchisee under the Blimpie Urban Initiative for Leadership Development (BUILD) program, he opened a Detroit store in March. With an initial investment of $150,000, he's looking for 2001 sales of about $500,000.
"Blimpie opened up a door I thought wouldn't be opening to me," Clark says. The BUILD program started when Blimpie realized it was underdeveloped in a number of major cities. "The urban areas were actually very viable," says Lance R. Moore, who heads the program. "We just needed channels to identify the franchisee prospects and ways to [help] them build resources to get funding."
Blimpie expects to open five or six stores this year in Detroit; Los Angeles; Newark, New Jersey; and Tacoma/Seattle, Washington. Under the initiative, the company sets up structured information days in urban areas, works with the SBA to find candidates, conducts training for candidates to complete their business plans and waives the initial franchise licensing fees of about $18,000. With about 2,000 stores currently, Blimpie wants to have from 200 to 400 more stores in the program this decade.
Clark has expansion plans of his own. He hopes to open a second Blimpie this year and to own a total of seven stores in five years. "Once we get this open, we're not going to stop moving forward," he says. He'll have plenty of help, too. Besides the support of wife Donna, Clark will enlist son-in-law Chris Jones and daughter Tiffany Clark as store managers.