Mr. Pickle’s sandwich shop in I.V. will not be reopening anytime soon, as its local owners find themselves sandwiched between hard economic times and an impending legal battle with their corporate franchiser.
The restaurant closed in December, after struggling with a 30 percent decline in sales due to Pardall Road construction, a feud with Sacramento franchiser Frank Fagundes and competition from Subway’s inequitably priced 5-dollar foot-long. Third-year business economics major and partial-owner Paul DiPierro said that unless a new owner steps in, the shop will join the ranks of the failed Isla Vista businesses of yore.
DiPierro said Mr. Pickle’s’ two and half year run in I.V. was satisfying, but the financial situation came as somewhat of a surprise to the restaurant owners.
“I wish it would’ve turned out a different way,” he said. “We had a good time while we were here, there’s a lot of good memories that came out of it – it was very fun while it lasted.”
DiPierro, along with fellow UCSB students Sean O’Ran, Jeff Blair and Jordan Corbett, chipped in and opened Mr. Pickle’s in July of 2006, a joint venture that rang in at an initial investment between $110,000 and $115,000.
According to DiPierro, Fagundes floated them the remaining $135,000-plus required to start the franchise – a debt that was not fully paid off by the time they closed their doors.
DiPierro refused to comment on the specifics of the ongoing lawsuit with Fagundes, but claimed that at least part of the dispute arose around “opinions [which] differed on the direction they saw the shop going in…a situation [which is] being played out in Sacramento.”
DiPierro met with his lawyer Friday, although there is no record of a lawsuit being filed in either Sacramento or Santa Barbara. Fagundes could not be reached for comment.
According to DiPierro, the Isla Vista branch of Mr. Pickle’s was ranked in the top five grossing branches out of the 50 scattered across California and Nevada, netting $40,000 in its first Halloween weekend alone.
According to DiPierro, if Mr. Pickle’s re-opens, it will be under new owners.
The shop employed 10 local residents at the time of its closing. Third-year pharmacology major Aidan Metzinger was one of the hardest hit by the layoff.
“My love for beauty was evident from birth,” he said. “Every time I worked I was an artist and the bread was my canvas. Now I have nothing.”
According to Metzinger, there is a great distinction between the experience of frequenting Subway and Mr. Pickle’s.
“Employees [at Subway] are bummed all the time, when you go into Pickle’s the tunes are flowing, the vibe is friendly and a dank sando always ensues,” he said.
Subway, which claims to be the fastest growing franchise in the world with 30,476 franchised units in 87 countries as of January 2009, can afford to undercut small businesses like Mr. Pickle’s with a cheaper product.
“Mr. Pickle’s just couldn’t compete,” Metzinger said. “I was surprised so many people would sacrifice two dollars to pass up on a dank sando.”