In this exclusive Q&A, we get to know Don Appel, a franchise owner of Plato’s Closet in Kennesaw, Georgia.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Tell us about your professional background.
Don Appel (DA): It took a long road to get to where I am today as a franchisee of Plato’s Closet. Post-graduate school, I worked in banking for a number of years and eventually found a job working at Howard Anderson Market Stores. From there, I relocated to Atlanta to work as a merchandise manager at what is now Macy’s. I again switched careers to work in the clothes manufacturing industry.
After gaining a high level position at the manufacturing company, I opted to retire. I enjoyed retirement; however it wasn’t too long before I got bored and sought out a new endeavor I could enjoy that would also keep me busy.
FC: Why did you come out of retirement to pursue entrepreneurship? What made you choose to go the franchise route?
DA: My initial reason for getting into franchising was the help that is offered to the franchisee by the franchisor. Plato’s Closet’s parent company, Winmark Corporation, has proven systems in place and provides support that makes life easy for small business owners.
I’ve owned a Plato’s Closet store for about 15 years—it’s hard to think of owning another franchise.
FC: What made Plato’s Closet an attractive franchise opportunity?
DA: I conducted ample research on the franchising industry and different brands before choosing Plato’s Closet. It stuck out for a few reasons—it was a newer concept and I saw value in the resale industry. There were no published problems between Winmark and its franchisees, and investing in Plato’s Closet would allow me to live the flexible lifestyle I desired.
After attending a discovery day, I learned more about the brand and it became the obvious investment choice for me.
FC: When did you open your first location, and how many stores do you currently own?
DA: I opened my first location in 2001 and currently own two stores.
FC: What made you successful as a franchise owner?
DA: As a franchise owner, I’m able to enjoy the best of both worlds. With my General Manager handling many of the day-to-day operations, I’m able to enjoy a bit of the ‘retirement life,’ yet still work. I am able to come into the store every day, but at the same time, my GM has a solid grasp on operations, so I can rest easy at night and take a vacation every now and then.
FC: Tell us about the level of training and support provided by Plato’s Closet and its parent company, Winmark Corporation.
DA: Winmark Corporation has provided me with fantastic support. They frequently have corporate-level employees visit the store to make sure everything is going well, and they provide training for all new employees.
I’ve lived by the rule of: “Whatever Winmark says to do, do it.” They’ve never led me down the wrong path. I have complete trust in my franchisor and am very happy with my status as a franchisee.
FC: How did you use your prior work experience from your previous career to your advantage in owning a franchise?
DA: My previous career provided me with a lot of sales experience, but in a different setting. I was also a CEO of a mid-sized company, which helped hone my leadership skills.
While my previous work experience has helped me, the training and ongoing support from Winmark Corporation has helped greatly in all areas of my business operations.
FC: What does the future have in store for you? Do you eventually plan to pass your stores along to a relative or one of your employees?
DA: I have two children and I’m a grandpa, but my family doesn’t have much interest in retail and are more than happy in their respective current career situations. Luckily, I’ve had a phenomenal General Manager that oversees both of my stores who will eventually buy them from me.
FC: What do you like most about owning a Plato’s Closet? Similarly, what do you like most about working in the stores?
DA: Owning a Plato’s Closet has allowed me to enjoy my retirement years with a fun, young brand. All of my employees and most of the customers are younger than me—they keep me young and feeling well.
FC: What advice do you have for other retirees who might be considering franchise ownership?
DA: If you’re retired and looking for a new opportunity, franchising is a great route, but be sure to do your research. Look into the corporation’s background and notice things about the company that you like and relate to. It’s also important to reach out to some of the current franchisees to see if this company is a fit for you as an investment.