Champps name to fade, but Woodbury restaurant to stay
Come Sunday, all Champps Americana logos will be removed from the building, menu and employee uniforms.
A federal bankruptcy order is forcing Champps franchisees to remove all names and food proprietary to the company, a deal frustrating to the Woodbury location owner who plans to keep the restaurant open.
Champps’ parent company, Kansas-based Fox and Hound Restaurant Group, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December.
All franchisees, including the first ever Champps in St. Paul, were ordered to stop using all company trade name as part of the deal.
Woodbury store owner Wayne Belisle built the restaurant 18 years ago and said the power of bankruptcy court will make him remove the name but not the good food.
“People will have tuna melts and hamburgers and steaks and salads,” he said. “Why pretend that it’s something different? We’re still what we are.”
A new name has not been finalized yet, but the American style food customers are used to will continue to be Belisle’s main focus.
“My choice, whether it’s right or wrong, is to not put another name on it until I decide what I’m going to improve,” Belisle said. “We’ve been here 18 years, maybe it’s time for a change, maybe it’s time for an improved concept.”
Belisle was owner of the Maplewood Champps until it closed in March due to poor economic conditions and the impending bankruptcy order. He also owns the New Brighton and Des Moines, Iowa, restaurants.
It’s a different situation in Woodbury though.
“I’m not only the tenant here but I’m the landlord,” he said. “I want to see something successful here.”
Fox and Hound Restaurant Group operates restaurants under Fox and Hound, Bailey’s and Champps brand names.
Many of the Champps restaurants across the nation were corporate-owned when the company bought them in 2007, but few in Minnesota, where Champps was originally started, are still owned by franchisees.
The $120 million Fox and Hound deal allows the company to sell to New York-based finance firm Cerberus Capital Management, according to a report by Nation’s Restaurant News.
Belisle, who received the court order earlier this month, said the deal reminds him of the General Motors and Chrysler bankruptcy ordeal that forced hundreds of dealerships out of business in 2010.
“It’s just very unusual the power that the bankruptcy court has,” he said. “But that’s how it is.”
The difference is he won’t be closing the Woodbury Champps. Its location right on Radio Drive near Interstate 94 makes it too precious and the competition all around him, a nice patio and steady flow customers is encouraging.
“The easiest thing for me to do is put a name up… I’m hoping to do better than that,” he said “I’m hoping to create something different. I didn’t have a year to do it or six months to plan.
“I don’t want to just put a band aid on it.”