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The new Saladworks, located on East Clayton Street in the former Jimmy John’s space, will serve fresh-made tossed salads, soups and sandwiches.
After getting the Athens Saladworks on sound footing, owners and operators Michael Medrow, Mike McPhillips and Dean Russell, plan to open Saladworks in Peachtree Center, Buckhead, Marietta, Roswell, Alpharetta, Duluth, Buford, Lawrenceville and Peachtree City during the next five years.
As a college town, Athens provides a perfect test market for the national chain’s first Georgia franchise, said Russell, who got his master’s degree at the University of Georgia to teach at West Point, where he got his undergraduate degree.
“If you’re going to start a franchise like this with healthy entrees, UGA with its 34,000-plus students would be great…” Russell said. “Saladworks is a great alternative to hamburgers, hot dogs and fried food. If it doesn’t make it in Athens, it’s not going to make it anywhere.”
The three partners bought their Saladworks franchise agreement from the Conshohocken, Pa.-based Saladworks corporation, which started in 1986 and now has 100 operating franchises in nine states.
The Saladworks restaurants are set up with deli-style counter service, where customers approach the salad case and order the food they want. All the foods is made from fresh ingredients, McPhillips said.
“The salads are fresh cut, made-to-order,” McPhillips said. “The food comes in fresh and cut by us and we serve it.”
Saladworks offers at least a dozen signature salads that include a B.L.T., Buffalo chicken, Newport (with tuna and shrimp), garden, articado (artichokes and avocado) and mandarin chicken just to name a few. Or, if a customer chooses, she can create her own, selecting a mix of romaine and iceberg lettuce, or radiatoree pasta or fresh spinach, then adding the toppings and choice of dressing. A standard order includes salad, five toppings, dressing and a fresh roll.
The store offers 50 toppings that include vegetables, fruits, meats and seafood.
“We’ve got avocados, beans, chicken, Buffalo chicken, grilled and fried chicken, salami, cheeses, vegetables; you name it,” McPhillips said. “Almost anything you can put on a salad will be in the salad case.”
The store will carry at least 14 dressings as well. The average cost for a salad, which is about 16 ounces to 20 ounces, is $7.99.
The Saladworks store also will serve its own soups and Focaccia Fusion sandwiches.
Soup options range from chicken noodle to vegetable to New England clam chowder and Maryland crab.
Medrow, McPhillips and Russell, who all hail from the Philadelphia area, originally worked together with Comcast in the Northeast and also founded wireless company UbiquiTel, which helped build cell phone network towers as a Sprint PCS wireless affiliate.
After their work in the wireless world, the three decided they wanted to form a business of their own and buying a franchise appealed to them. They chose Saladworks, which was very popular in the New York and Philadelphia areas.
“We decided that we have experience in finding new markets and decided to help launch the Saladworks brand in Georgia,” McPhillips said. “Dean (Russell) said we had to go to UGA.”
The new Saladworks will seat about 40 people inside and about a dozen outside. The partners invested a healthy amount in refurbishing the old Jimmy John’s space, replacing the floor, painting, redoing the rest rooms, installing a larger kitchen and putting in new fixtures, including their salad and drinks cases. One decorative element that will stand out will be an expansive image of a field of lettuce on the dining area wall.
Once the restaurant opens, one of the three partners will work there every day, Medrow said.