WILMINGTON—After a whirlwind three days, all four of Wilmington’s Chop’s Deli locations will remain open, co-owner Brad Corpening confirmed Wednesday morning.
Although the homegrown sandwich chain’s last-ditch “Hail Mary” GoFundMe attempt to raise $100,000 only hit about $10,000, that money, along with new investment offers, will keep the doors at Chop’s open.
Corpening acknowledged that the campaign generated a considerable amount of negative feedback, but said the move was crucial.
“We realize how that made some people feel, and we get that, but we also had to do what we could. And we were unbelievably touched by the reaction,” Corpening said. “And the donations were just part of it. Our campaign had multiple goals, and you know one of them was exposure, and making new contacts.”
According to Corpening, the campaign got the attention of several new potential investors, including one interested in buying one of Chop’s more recent locations.
Corpening, who now wants to focus on the original downtown location, said the expansion of the brand – to locations in Monkey Junction, near Wrightsville Beach, and Castle Hayne – were “ill-advised.”
“We acknowledge they were ill-advised and we over-extended ourselves,” Corpening said.
‘Ill-advised’ expansion, growing debt
The Chop’s franchise ran into trouble when rising overhead, including the cost of expansion, began to overrun sales.
Corpening took out a high-interest loan, which ultimately began to compound the problem, calling it a “long-term problem caused by a short-term solution.”
With high payments and rising debts, the North Carolina Department of Revenue required Chop’s to show it could remain financially viable.
Corpening met with staff from the Department of Revenue today and got favorable reviews of plans, which include a “good faith offer,” a plan for paying down debt, selling off some of Chop’s assets, excluding the downtown location, and taking on new investors.
$10,000 from GoFundMe
And what will become of the $10,000 in donations received through the Chop’s GoFundMe compaign?
Corpening said he and Joan Wilkerson, who organized the donation campaign, are still working on the details but that Chop’s will keep donations made up to this point.
“Our goal, our idea, was always that if we reached some level were the money would be impactful and make a difference then we would use that to help us, but if it wasn’t going to make a difference then we would refund it,” Corpening said. “I think we hit the $10,000 mark late last night, and that money really will make a difference, in terms of helping us clean up this situation — so we will keep the money and we are grateful that the response was so strong.”
Corpening said he was aware that this, too, might add to “the negative blowback,” but that he was focusing on the people who supported Chop’s.
“It wasn’t just the donations, which really will help us stay alive, but even the people who didn’t donate but came to see us. We’ve been busy as all get out the last few days,” Corpening said.
Corpening said Chop’s is still ironing out details with the state, as well as with new investors. Corpening reiterated that the downtown store would be the focus, moving forward, but did not yet have details on what would become of the more recent additions to the franchise.
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