Tavern Tycoon: Young Entrepreneur Knew His Destiny in Third Grade

A third-grade writing assignment led to a real revelation for Brandon Jones and his father. The teacher asked the kids to write about what they wanted to be when they grew up. "Most kids said things like 'Be a policeman or a firefighter,'" says the 33-year-old today. "I wrote 'Own a bar with my dad.'" It may have sounded odd to his teacher, but that's exactly what he went on to do.

Jones grew up in La Porte, Ind., a town of about 22,000. He was a hard-working kid who was throwing newspapers by age 13, earned enough money to buy his own moped at 14, and stayed busy doing various jobs when he wasn't on the athletic field or in the gym. When Jones was still a toddler, his father converted an old house into a small tavern, and it was here that Jones would finally fulfill his third-grade desire.

"The day I turned 21, I went to work with dad in the tavern," he says. That's where he spent the next six years, learning the ropes of the retail food and beverage business. With that under his belt, Jones, then in his late 20s, partnered up with his father to open their first Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant.

"We loved the concept and the business model of franchising," says Jones. And they did well, expanding to six locations throughout his home state of Indiana over the next six years. Today, Jones operates those six Buffalo Wild Wings stores, two Smashburgers in Kentucky, and in late 2012 opened his first Flip Flop Shops store in La Porte.

"I've always mainly been interested in the food business," he says. "But when I discovered Flip Flop Shops, I was intrigued by the brand and decided I wanted to give this a try. I thought it was more about the 'experience' than just the basic products; that's how I think of all of my brands."

He says that branching out beyond the restaurant business was not that difficult for him. "The retail environment is actually easier in many ways, because with restaurants you have a lot of moving parts, and that's not the case with my Flip Flop Shop." However, he says, his new shoe store does pose challenges, like making sure he has the right products at the right time. "I have to know what will sell in the Flip Flop Shop, and the brand has been great at providing the perfect recommendations." He does joke that opening a "sandal store in Indiana in the winter" made for a challenging first few months.

Jones is always looking ahead, and says he'd love to expand each of his three concepts--or any other brand that might present itself. "If the opportunity is out there, I'm going to find it and make it work."

Name: Brandon Jones
Title: Franchisee
Company: Flip Flop Shops, Smashburger, Buffalo Wild Wings
No. of units: 6 Buffalo Wild Wing, 2 Smashburger, 1 Flip Flop Shops
Age: 33
Family: Three kids
Years in franchising: 6
Years in current position: 6

Published: July 24th, 2013

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