Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Local franchisee brings ‘cobbler magic’ to Pleasure Island in latest venture

The Peach Cobbler Factory will launch in Carolina Beach in January 2022. (Courtesy photo)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — A new locally owned and operated dessert franchise is making its way to Pleasure Island in the new year. Kure Beach resident Greg George is a partner in The Peach Cobbler Factory, which will soon operate over 30 stores in 10 states in its first year of launching as a brick-and-mortar.

Factory founders Juan and Tammy Edgerton started the concept in 2013, pushing homemade cobblers at city markets in Nashville, Tennessee.

“Tammy’s the brains of the operations,” George said. “She created the factory’s famed cobbler from her family’s recipes.”

The brand eventually evolved into a food truck.

“And when we went to the brick-and-mortar, that’s when Juan said, ‘Wow, we can scale this business,’” George said.

The concept has further grown into offering more sweets: Banana pudding, cobbler-stuffed cinnamon rolls and peach-strawberry tea complete The Peach Cobbler Factory’s menu.

“It’s kind of what happens with brands that end up franchising,” George said. “They start somewhere small and they grow a little, and then they start making money and are successful, then they figure out a franchise because their customers are saying, ‘I want to do this.’”

George understands the ins and outs of franchising, having helped launch multi-million-dollar concepts via his company, Emerging Food Franchises, for over 20 years. Partial owner of nine national food brands, including Healthy James — which opened on Oleander Drive earlier in the fall — he helped Port City Java, Shuckin’ Shack and Fuzzy Peach get off the ground. 

The Peach Cobbler Factory, he said, is clearing seven figures and costs between $65,000 and $125,000 to open, with startup taking around 60 to 120 days. The company has signed 40 franchise agreements in the last four months. A location in Louisville, Kentucky, opened in June 2021 and by November was serving 6,000 pounds of cobbler a month, the Courier-Journal reported.

The Peach Cobbler Factory has a manufacturing partnership with major food-corporation Sara Lee, which helps meet demand and allows the factory to distribute the cobbler in massive quantities. The company sells 12 flavors — blackberry, peach, cherry, apple, sweet potato-pecan, etc. — topped with vanilla ice cream. 

“And we have what we call ‘cobbler magic,’” George said. A cinnamon-sugar topping, featuring a few more secret ingredients, gets sprinkled on every order. “It’s like crack for desserts,” George described. 

The franchise also will offer cobbler-stuffed cinnamon rolls at The Peach Cobbler Factory. (Courtesy photo)

The company also serves, aside from the original, five varieties of banana pudding (chocolate chip, Nutella, red velvet, Oreo, strawberry), three flavors of cobbler-stuffed cinnamon rolls (Nutella, choice of cobbler or vanilla-cinnamon) and a specialty strawberry-peach tea.

“We create [the tea] in-house at every location and the banana pudding,” George explained. 

So far, five corporate units of The Peach Cobbler Factory are open, with five more slated in the coming month: New Orleans, Savannah, Nashville, Atlanta, and Carolina Beach. 

George will own the Carolina Beach operation with Uncle Vinny’s Pizzeria owners Vinny Doria and Corey Carter. They have their sights set on a January 2022 opening in Doria’s former Vinny’s Seafood Express, which closed at the end of November.

George, Doria and Carter also want to launch stores in Leland, downtown Wilmington, Porters Neck, Hampstead, and Jacksonville in the coming year.

“It’s just a matter of time — this is going to be 1,000 store chains. There’s no doubt about it,” George said. “There’s never been anything like this ever in this area.”

George said he was drawn to the cobbler concept because of its simplicity: “Two people can run a million-dollar store.”

It’s part of what compelled Doria, who has been friends with George for more than a decade. 

“He was the first person I met on the island,” Doria said.

Doria has owned over 40 independent eateries, from New Jersey to North Carolina, over the last 30 years. He said he was experiencing staffing woes at Vinny’s Seafood Express after the height of the summer season. The restaurant needed at least eight employees at all times.

“This new concept, we can circulate four different employees,” Doria said, “and cover everything that needs to be covered.”

Doria also was persuaded by the operation’s low food costs. ​​”Seafood has gone up like 20 or 25 percent since we started the venture in May,” he said. “Fruit hasn’t really been affected.”

The organic growth of the chain has been eye-opening for George, who explained the factory’s dessert photos have taken off on social media and generated followers without a single paid boost. The Chattanooga store — also slated to open in winter — had 22,000 followers in three weeks.

“This concept is Instagram-ready,” he said. “We even have a selfie station at every location.”

A chalkboard wall allows customers to sign off on their experiences, too. 

“It’s a modern design,” George said.

To flip Vinny’s Seafood Express will take minimal work, as the colors of the building match the cobbler’s franchise: orange and blue. New equipment and furniture will go in. There will be dine-in seating, as well as takeout and delivery — the latter offered from another of George’s concepts: FoodChing. The food delivery service is like that of DoorDash or UberEats, only it saves restaurateurs money.

“We don’t charge restaurant owners a delivery fee,” George said.

The Peach Cobbler Factory will offer catering and take bulk orders, such as “homes interested in purchasing large quantities for their patients,” Doria said. “There’s a bigger market for that type of product.”

The first Peach Cobbler Factory will be located at 1010 S. Lake Park Blvd. and will open seven days a week, noon – 8 p.m., with extended hours offered in the summer.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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