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When Gilberto Martinez and his partner proposed opening a Menchie’s frozen yogurt store in San Fernando, Calif., the corporate office was skeptical. The median household income in the city was low and Menchie’s officials weren’t sure that the community of struggling, working-class families could support the location.
But Martinez was adamant about the location and determined to make it work. His partner owned a retail center that offered high visibility, an optimal location, and the partners could control the rent. In addition, Martinez, a contractor, planned to build the store out himself, which would save money.
Today, the San Fernando Menchie’s is one of the strongest in the chain, ranking at the top for gross sales in California as well as the United States. And because of the knowledge and experience he gained from building his own 2,500-square-foot store, Martinez has become a contractor for other Menchie’s, having built more than 15 stores in California for other franchisees.
Opened Menchie’s as Side Business
Martinez, 49, studied architecture at the University of Southern California and has run his own design and construction business for 30 years, but when the economy began to tank five years ago, he started looking for a way to supplement his income.
“We made it through two recessions, but this last one was really, really tough,” said the father of three. “I started looking for some diversification.”
One of his neighbors was a Menchie’s franchisee and one of his young daughters was always hanging out in a Menchie’s in Moorpark, Calif. He and his partner Eric Guefen began exploring the frozen yogurt sector, looking to invest in such brands as Red Mango, Tutti Frutti, and Yogurtland before settling on Menchie’s.
“It was a growing, very young company and we just saw the potential in it,” Martinez said of Menchie’s. “And the quality was consistent. Every little question we had they would answer. There was good communication early on. The overall culture of the organization had a much better vibe for us.”