Closing of 2 ZiPani cafes cuts number in region to 9

Shutdowns catch many by surprise

Food service

March 30, 2000|By Kristine Henry | Kristine Henry,SUN STAFF

ZiPani, a Redmond, Wash.-based chain of bakery cafes, has closed more than half its stores in Maryland and Virginia.

The stores, which sprouted from a group of Bruegger's Bagel Bakeries franchises, made their Maryland-Virginia debut in early 1998 with 23 locations. With the closing this week of the Dobbin Center store in Columbia and a Timonium location, the number is down to nine.

Other than to confirm the number of current stores, company officials would not comment on the closings or indicate whether more were planned.

Wayne Christmann, general manager of Columbia Management Inc., which runs Dobbin Center for the Rouse Co., said he had been unaware of plans to close the store Monday.

"Our understanding is they are in the process of closing 25 [percent] to 50 percent of their current locations in the area with the idea of closing all of them. The concept was not working for them," said Christmann, who said he didn't know the store's sales numbers. "I had always thought they were doing well, but the proof is in the cash register."

Christmann said the Dobbin Center lease was to expire in September 2003.

He also said the ZiPani on Dorsey Hall Drive in Ellicott City closed in November when its lease expired.

ZiPani founder Ken Wagnon had owned 23 Bruegger's Bagels franchises in Maryland and Virginia -- and 23 more in the Pacific Northwest -- but decided customers wanted more variety. In February 1998, he and his son, Jay Wagnon, changed the name of the stores, de-emphasized the bagel and added selections such as fresh rolls and grilled focaccia sandwiches.

Jay Wagnon, president of Cafe Concepts LLC in Redmond, which runs the stores, told Nation's Restaurant News in November 1998 that each conversion cost between $60,000 and $70,000.

He also told the trade publication that traffic in the converted locations had risen 10 percent to 40 percent and the amount spent, on average, per customer rose from $3.50 to nearly $4.50.

Jerry Wit, vice president of MIE Properties Inc., which owns the Timonium property, said he found out Monday that the Yorkridge Center South store was closing that day. "We loved the store, the concept and the service," he said.

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