GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Business

October 4, 2012

Broken promises lead to closing, Five Guys owner says

The demise this week of Five Guys at Gloucester Crossing has left the franchise owner disappointed and disillusioned, and the planned 195,000 square foot shopping center without an eatery of any kind.

“There aren’t a lot of sour grapes,” said Greg Vasey, “but it is fair to say we were misled” about essential components of Gloucester Crossing.

Vasey, 32, a self-financed entrepreneur, chose to invest in the Five Guys franchising phenomenon in the midst of bursting investment bank bubbles in 2008. The collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers among other financial fiascos soured him on the obvious first steps into banking for MBAs, and while at the University of Chicago Business School, said he had already fallen “in love” with Five Guys.

Raised in Greenwich, Conn., Vasey said he was attracted to New England to test his entrepreneurial skills, and with the Sept. 10 opening of a Five Guys on Route 114 in Peabody, he now owns four Five Guys, with other successful locations in Saugus, Swampscott and Burlington, Vt., not to mention a celebrated food truck known as The Taco Truck, which was featured on WCVB’s “Chronicle” this past summer.

But Vasey said Gloucester Crossing developer Sam Park induced him to take a 10-year-lease with promises — in writing, in the City Council special permit — of a high volume Holiday Inn Express hotel and an assisted living facility. At the time, there was also serious talk of landing a Staples. Neither the motel nor the elderly housing have materialized and instead of Staples, Marshalls opened at Gloucester Crossing.

“The secret to Five Guys’ success is the appeal to the blue-collar community,” Vasey said. “We appeal to the contractor, the trades guys who can pay $9 to $10 a couple of times a week.” What he got instead is women with young children in tow, for whom the propensity to stop for a meal at Five Guys was in inverse proportion to the number of small children in the entourage.

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