Restaurant franchisee recognized His diverse business career started in effort to escape tight squeeze

August 19, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

It all started 24 years ago with a new house, the need to make payments on it and a desire to provide for his family.

Now, Frank E. Dimick is the Popeye's Restaurant Franchisee of the Year, as well as the developer of Melstone Valley in Eldersburg and the manager of Peddler's Square.

"I got into business because I needed a secondary income to make ends meet. We were on a shoestring and had a hard time making the [house] payments," said the 51-year-old businessman, who also developed the KinderCare Preschool building, the Eldersburg Medical/Professional building and helped start the Carrolltowne Business Association.

An electronics salesman with Connell Dubileer Electronics, Mr. Dimick moved his family to Eldersburg in November 1969 when he fell in love with the area. The developer, who was having trouble getting rid of the final houses in his development, allowed Mr. Dimick to set up a sales office in his home.

From there, Mr. Dimick began selling lawn lamps and old cars he had restored. The latter business eventually grew into Country Motors, an independent dealership for used cars.

"During the days of the car business, I was involved in all facets," said Mr. Dimick, a 1959 Parkville High graduate. "It eventually got to the point that we were the largest independent . . . car dealer in the state."

Country Motors, with four locations in Carroll and Baltimore counties, sold between 1,000 and 1,200 cars a year, he said. "That's a lot of cars for an independent dealer."

In 1981, Mr. Dimick left car sales to concentrate on managing the properties he had bought and developed.

"All the profits I had from the car business I reinvested in Carroll County," he said. "At one time, I had 48 houses that I had bought, fixed up and rented. Most were eventually sold to the residents that lived in them."

He also converted Country Motors into the current Country Village shopping center, and created the Oklahoma Center, Peddler's Square and several other commercial properties. Five years later, when a change in the federal tax laws made real estate investments less attractive, he decided to retire.

"Combined with the anticipated change in the tax laws was a desire to meet my goal of retiring early," said Mr. Dimick, who was 46 at the time. "I got tired of always working seven days a week. A short day for me was 12 hours, and one night a week I would work all night on the books."

A new life with his wife, Jean and two daughters, Lisa and Wendy -- now 24 and 19 -- awaited in Ocean City.

But slowly, Eldersburg began to call Mr. Dimick home. First it was work with friends' personal finances, helping old business partners out of trouble and managing the properties that remained.

By 1989, he was managing several failing Popeye's franchises in the Baltimore area and spending more time in Eldersburg than at the ocean.

"I came back here to get them [Popeye's stores] running well enough to be sold," Mr. Dimick said. "But I found a lot of interesting people . . . and got more and more involved."

His personal touch has brought the three original restaurants back to life and added six more to his franchise. The national organization recognized Mr. Dimick as Outstanding Franchisee and his businesses as Franchise of the Year in March.

"The kids who work in the dining room and cook the chicken are on a first-name basis with me," he said. "I learn more about my business by talking to the people who do the work. There's so much to learn from people if you listen."

Eldersburg has yet to get a Popeye's, even though it was the first community the national chain approved for Mr. Dimick. His company owns properties in Westminster and Eldersburg that will become Popeye's restaurants as soon as the county approves the permits.

He said he's most proud of his role in the first Freedom Fun Days in 1976. Amid controversy between developers, business owners and residents over the county's Freedom District master plan, Dan Dulany, George Mezer-- and Mr. Dimick organized the 4th of July picnic to unify the community.

"We got community groups and business groups working on committees together," he said. "It brought the community back together. I think business has to do that."

He admits, though, that some people grumble about his business dealings.

"I'd like people to think that I'm the greatest guy around," he said. "Some people think I'm great and some people think I'm an SOB."

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