Brad Corpening described in more detail Monday the financial issues that led Corpening and his Chops Deli co-owner Chris Graham to start a GoFundMe campaign Friday for their restaurant brand.
Corpening described the campaign as a “Hail Mary” attempt to generate the funds necessary to keep the downtown Chops Deli location afloat while they continue to pursue all other options for the company.
Corpening said the current financial situation is a symptom of expanding the business without proper planning and support. In borrowing additional money to cover expansion projects, which included renovations, equipment purchases and start-up costs, the company began to incur more and more debt, which sales alone have not been able to cover.
While the goal of the GoFundMe campaign is $100,000, Corpening said Monday that if even a quarter of that amount were raised by Wednesday, it would allow he and Graham more time to negotiate with lenders.
“We are down to the wire, and it’s time to cast a big net,” Corpening said.
Corpening admits that a GoFundMe campaign to save a business in financial distress is unconventional, but he felt it was important to exhaust every option in an attempt to keep the business afloat. He said the campaign has already been productive, in that he has heard from several possible lenders and investors who are interested in working with he and Graham.
While all four Chops locations are currently open for business, Corpening said that the amount of money raised by Wednesday would likely determine if they will remain open.
“If we don’t get something together by Wednesday it may be out of our hands,” Corpening said. “We will put forth whatever we have to see what options there are.”
Chops' first location opened at 130 N. Front St. in 2010, followed by a Monkey Junction location in late 2011 and 7037 Wrightsville Ave. in 2014. In December 2016, Chops Diner opened in Wrightsboro at 2539 Castle Hayne Road. The partners planned to close the Monkey Junction location in order to develop a new concept, Chops Creamery, at The Pointe at Barclay, but the lease on the space in that development was broken and the Monkey Junction location reopened following a brief closure.
In an effort to consolidate past debts, Corpening and Graham retained financing last fall in the form of a high-interest loan, and Corpening admits that he didn’t properly assess the repayment schedule and the impact it would have on the company’s bottom line.
Corpening and Graham are currently working with a broker to list all four Chops locations for sale and waiting on a market evaluation for each location. Corpening said at this point, the best-case scenario in his eyes would be to retain the downtown location and sell at least two if not three of the other locations.
“That would put us back in a position where we could make sure that everything was being managed effectively,” Corpening said.
Corpening denied that any of the financial difficulties are related to drug charges he faced in Wake County in 2015.
By Tuesday afternoon, the campaign had raised more than $10,000.
“I’d like to extend a word of thanks to those that have shared their love and support, whether through donations or buying sandwiches or just coming by and giving a hug,” Corpening said. “I knew going into this that there would be some negative feedback, but the benefit of generating support outweighed the negative aspect of people thinking less of me. If people don’t agree with my methods they’re not obligated in any way to contribute.”
Editor's note: This version updates the amount the Chops Deli GoFundMe campaign has raised.