Partnership to take BWW to next level

Monday, September 25, 2006

Bill Zellmer has big plans for the Buffalo Wild Wings franchise, and they are integrally tied to Lonnie Griggs, his brother-in-law who just became his business partner and director of operations.

A week ago, Zellmer and Griggs formed a BWW partnership they expect will culminate in the creation of as many as 15 new Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants throughout Central and Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois. Maybe a few other states, too.

"I found my limitation and needed some help, so it seemed like the right move," Zellmer said. "And we've got a lot of big things planned and I'll need his help."

But before those big plans, a little family history.

Zellmer has been bugging his brother-in-law to join the company for some time. And it's not just a family thing. Griggs has nearly 20 years in the business, working for Darden Restaurants, the parent company for Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Smokey Bones and Bahama Breeze.

Griggs was general manager for Red Lobster in Cape Girardeau before he went to work at Smokey Bones in St. Louis.

With all that's going on, there just aren't enough hours in the day for Zellmer to do it all himself, he said.

He opened the Cape Girardeau BWW on Aug. 18, 2002. Then in May of this year, he opened one in Carbondale, Ill. Zellmer is the sole franchise holder of those stores, though Griggs will be director of operations for all the restaurants.

So, he looked to his brother-in-law for help.

Any stores they open from here on out will be owned by Zellmer and Griggs. They have plans for plenty. They plan to open four more BWWs in the next four years, starting with Sikeston and Poplar Bluff in 2007, which are slated for a summer and fall opening, respectively. BWWs in Mount Vernon, Ill., and Farmington, Mo., will be open at least by 2010 and they hope before, the men said.

"Buffalo Wild Wings is a fresh, hot concept that's growing rapidly," Zellmer said. "We're looking forward to getting our plans up and running."

* Bank of Missouri opens Springfield branch: Speaking of expansions, the Bank of Missouri has opened a branch in Springfield, Mo. CEO and board chairman David Crader recently announced the deal, noting that Mick Nitsch has been appointed as community bank president there.

Nitsch recently concluded a 23-year stint in banking in Southeast, Central and Southwest Missouri communities with Regions Bank, many of the same communities where The Bank of Missouri has grown to $435 million in assets, according to June reports. Nitsch recently served as the community bank president for Regions Bank in Springfield, as position held since 2001.

The bank has opened a loan and deposit production office in Springfield and plans are underway to construct a new 14,000-square-foot bank facility during 2007.

"We intend to bring our world-class hometown community banking to Springfield and be a good corporate citizen," Crader said. "We will focus on delivering superior customer service coupled with state-of-the-art technology for our customers."

The Bank of Missouri is an independent community bank owned by Reliable Community Bancshares, Inc., which is based in Perryville.

* Rowe is closing: A big blow to the workforce in Poplar Bluff, Mo. The Daily American Republic reported last week that Rowe Furniture in Poplar Bluff is closing Nov. 22, putting approximately 400 local residents out of work.

The corporation announced that it had began voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in the Eastern District of Virginia.

"As part of our reorganization and restructuring, we have had to make the difficult decision to close the facilities in Missouri," said Rowe spokesman Saverio Mancina. The company was speaking to "several" employees at its Poplar Bluff location about relocating to the Elliston and Salem, Va., facilities.

The Poplar Bluff factory has manufactured upholstered furniture and been a major employer in Poplar Bluff since 1968.

Scott Moyers is the business editor of the Southeast Missourian. Send your comments, business news, information or questions to "Biz Buzz," 301 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, Mo., 63702-0699, or e-mail them to smoyers@semissourian.com or call (573) 335-6611, extension 137.

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