By Drew Jackson and Hannah Smoot
After a month of Famous Toastery closings elsewhere in North Carolina, Charlotteans can breathe easy.
No Charlotte locations will be closing, according to a Famous Toastery spokesperson — in fact, four more will open.
The (Raleigh) News & Observer reported Wednesday that three Triangle-area locations of Famous Toastery closed this month and another has started bankruptcy proceedings.
But Lauren Turner, representing Famous Toastery, said the Triangle-area closures were franchisee closures. All Charlotte-area locations will remain open.
Turner said new locations in Denver, Mountain Island Lake and Concord in North Carolina and Lake Wylie in South Carolina are expected to open this year.
The Cary location of Famous Toastery is the only Triangle-area location still standing, after the closings of restaurants in Morrisville, Garner and Holly Springs.
The closed locations were owned by former software CFO Jim Buchanan, who opened all three restaurants in 2017. All appear to have closed at the same time this month. Buchanan did not respond to requests for comment.
The Cary franchise in the Waverly Place shopping center is the Triangle’s oldest, opened in 2014 under the name Toast Cafe. That location is owned by former NASCAR marketing executive Dean Kessel. As of Wednesday morning, it is the only Triangle-area Toastery still open for business. An employee reached by phone said the restaurant would stay open.
Cary’s Famous Toastery is operated by Kessel’s Classic Ventures Group, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday in North Carolina’s Eastern District. In filings, the firm claims debts between $500,000 and $1 million and assets of less than $50,000.
Kessel did not respond to calls requesting comment.
Kessel also owned an Asheville location of Famous Toastery, but it also closed this month, according to the Citizen-Times. A third location, in Blowing Rock, was also operating normally Wednesday.
In 2017, Kessel spoke to the News & Observer about expansion plans for Famous Toastery locations around North Carolina, growing to a total of nine restaurants. Asheville’s location was open only 16 months, and the Blowing Rock location has been open less than a year.
More than 30 locations
The first Famous Toastery location opened in Huntersville in 2005 and the brand grew to more than 30 locations in the Carolinas and Virginia, with the bulk of the restaurants centered in the Charlotte area. The model is built around brunch, with a menu of Eggs Benedict varieties, breakfast burritos, pancakes and omelets, with some locations serving brunch cocktails.
“It’s a great lifestyle brand,” Kessel said in 2017. “We open at 7 and close at 3 every day. It’s not only good for us as an ownership group, it’s good for our staff. Our team can be with their families in the evening.”
The Cary location continues to employ 35 workers, according to court filings.
In a statement, Famous Toastery said the landlords of the closed locations are seeking new tenants. Famous Toastery has talked in the past about looking to grow the brand beyond the region, but the closing of four North Carolina locations in a month would appear to be a setback. Still the company points to franchise requests as a sign of good brand health.
“Our outlook is strong and new franchised and corporate stores are currently opening,” said Robert Maynard, CEO and founder of Famous Toastery in an email. “Sometimes it’s not about the brand as they are independent owners. The future for Famous Toastery is bright and strong. We acknowledge the bump in the road but are 100% confident in the brand and the franchisees we have, including Mr. Kessel.”
This article originally appeared in The Charlotte Observer.