HAMBURGER FAMILY OPENS WILD EGGS IN JEFFERSONVILLE
By Steve kaufman | Family photos by Antonio Pantoja | Food photos by Josh Merideth of Bella Grace
IT’S A CLICHÉ THAT EVERYONE WANTS TO OWN A RESTAURANT. On the other hand, it’s also a cliché that owning one is much harder than it looks and comes with an alarming failure rate. Chris Hamburger knows both sides of that equation.
The former golf pro – at both Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville and the Cardinal Club (which has been renamed University of Louisville Golf Club) in Simpsonville – had long been looking for some kind of a business venture. While general manager at the Cardinal Club, he ran the food and beverage service and knew that as well-run as the club’s restaurant looked, there was furious paddling going on beneath the calm surface.
Still, failure rate and furious paddling notwithstanding, when a food franchising opportunity opened up, Hamburger did his homework and his due diligence, and grabbed it.
So, this month, the former golf pro opened Wild Eggs in Jeffersonville, the first Southern Indiana outlet of the popular Louisville breakfast place. To him, and to his wife Laura, it was pretty much a no-brainer.
Not only did Chris have the Cardinal Club food-and-beverage experience, but also Laura has been in the food service business ever since graduating from Indiana University in 2004 with a business and marketing degree. She could identify a good deal with a considerable upside. So this was much more than a “hey, let’s open a restaurant” notion.
“I liked the Wild Eggs concept because I’d seen the success of the other locations,” Chris said. Wild Eggs had opened three additional restaurants since its 2007 debut on Dutchmans Lane in St. Matthews’ medical center neighborhood: in Westport Village; downtown on South Floyd Street; and on South English Station Road in the Lake Forest area.
“It was a perfect package with great support from the franchisor,” said Laura. “We pored over the financial statements and balance sheets, and even their worst-performing store does an awesome business.”
“We couldn’t see a negative,” she said.
If location-location-location applies to the restaurant business, the Hamburgers think they’re well-set. They share the site at 1450 Veterans Parkway, just east of both I-65 and I-31, with a Tony Boombozz Pizza & Taphouse and a Comfy Cow ice cream parlor (both, incidentally, Wild Eggs’ neighbors in Louisville’s Westport Village).
“We have people covered from early morning, through lunch and dinner to evening indulgence,” Chris quipped.
In addition, there’s a new Menards home improvement store across the street, and Best Buy, TJ Maxx and several car dealerships in the vicinity. Also, there are three large churches (Southeast Christian Church has its Indiana campus nearby), providing the potential for strong Sunday morning traffic. And Kentuckiana Medical Center is right up I-31. Patients who’ve fasted before taking blood tests will surely come out in need of coffee and something to eat.
In fact, said Chris, people in the area have been clamoring for a Wild Eggs. “The landlord, Jack Koetter (of The Koetter Group in Floyds Knobs), said the Wild Eggs name comes up every time he builds a new development.”
Plus, the new restaurateur added: “Jeffersonville is kind of a sleeper town, growing residentially with quite a few homes to the east of us. And the River Ridge Commerce Center is just a hop, skip and jump away.
“There are a lot of workers there who have to eat somewhere.”
The Wild Eggs crowd is diverse, said Chris. “Wild Eggs appeals to young and old, teens, couples and families, nurses after a shift in the hospital, businessmen on their way to work – anyone who eats breakfast.”
So convinced are Laura and Chris that they’ve acquired the exclusive options for Wild Eggs in two Kentucky ZIP codes – 40241 (east of Louisville, along I-71 and I-265) and 40299 (the Jeffersontown area, then south and east past 265). Has he thought about where those new locations might go?
“I go to bed every night thinking about those next two locations,” he said. The Wild Eggs site-assessment system is pretty extensive. It takes into account both foot and car traffic, especially in the morning; number of households in a 3- to 5- mile radius; median incomes; and neighboring tenants.
“Plus,” Chris explained, “they evaluate whether the site itself fits the Wild Eggs footprint. There’s no way to measure that. It’s just eyeball experience. That’s one of the ways in which this franchisor is so valuable.”
The idea of owning a Wild Eggs wasn’t just a sudden lightning bolt for Chris. He had known Kelly Meyers, wife of Wild Eggs co-founder JD Rothberg, since she was the golf coach at the University of Louisville. He and Laura had attended the friends-and-family opening in 2007 of the debut Dutchmans Lane location. The idea had been percolating in his mind ever since.
“I told them early on, ‘When you guys start to franchise, I’d love to have a conversation with you,’ ” Chris recalled. “They probably thought I was kidding.”
Though they both know the rigors of running a restaurant, Laura and Chris see this new enterprise as much more family-friendly than Chris’ golf pro work.
“We have three young girls (Jocelyn is 8, Charlotte is 5 and Caroline is 2½), and Chris would be at the club until the sun went down,” Laura said. “But Wild Eggs closes at 2:30 in the afternoon – 3 on the weekends – so the girls will get to know Daddy again.”
EGGS OVER EASY
WILD EGGS 1450 Veterans Parkway Jeffersonville, IN 47130
812.913.4735 | www.wildeggs.com
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday