The four-store Frugals 1950s retro hamburger chain opened its first new restaurant in 17 years March 5 in Nampa.
The Nampa location, on the site of a former Squeaky Clean Car Wash, is also the first franchise operation for the Port Angeles, Washington, family business that has Frugals in Port Angeles, opened in 1988, Tacoma (1990), Auburn, Washington (2000), and Kalispell, Montana (2001).
Kalispell residents Terry and Deb Kramer are not involved with the Frugals there, but noticed it was doing a booming business. Terry Kramer built Burger King and Popeyes Louisiana Ktichen restaurants next door to Frugals, and said he noticed there were typically more cars at Frugals.
Kramer made inquiries about becoming a Frugals franchisee just as Frugals was ready to expand into franchising.
“We were going to go to Spokane but Washington is raising its minimum wage,” Terry Kramer said. “(Frugals) said ‘We want you to go to Boise. It’s a fast-growing place.’”
Thornton Oliver Keller Commercial Real Estate pointed the Squeaky Clean property out to Kramer. He said he was willing to go through the extra expense of demolishing an existing structure at 704 12th Ave. Road because it was a “grade A location.” Datum Construction of Meridian was the general contractor.
“Nampa fits with what Frugals is: a mom-and-pop operation with fresh-made food,” Kramer said. “We don’t belong at The Village (at Meridian).”
Kramer, however, does plan to commit to a second Frugals somewhere in Boise later this year and another in Missoula, Montana. He anticipates three to five Frugals in the Treasure Valley and future ones in Twin Falls, Idaho Falls and Pocatello.
Frugals outposts in Kalispell and Nampa
How did Kalispell, Montana, get a Frugals while the other three Frugals are in western Washington? And why is the company headquarters in Port Angeles, Washington?
Company founders Peter and Sheila Stewart were raising their family in Kalispell, while Sheila Stewart jointly owned property with her brother in Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula. Frugals started in Port Angeles and then expanded to Tacoma and nearby Auburn. The Stewarts then opened the Kalispell store in 2001.
No stores were added after that.
“We always had a lot of franchise interest,” said Tyler Clifford, Frugals business development manager. “We didn’t have the resources to fully explore that.”
Clifford joined Frugals two years ago half-time while also working at Nike’s corporate headquarters in Portland, Oregon. One year ago he went full-time at Frugals and set up the company for franchising.
His mother, Laurie Macarty, is the Frugals CEO after starting as its bookkeeper in the early years.
“We’re looking at doubling the store count in the next two-three years,” said Clifford, while helping out at the Nampa Frugals during the opening weeks. “Right now, we decided to go slow. Now we’re focused on staying in the Northwest.”
The Nampa store is the trial location for Frugals to fine-tune its franchising operation.
“Now we’re 100 percent focused on Nampa,” Clifford said. “Once we have the Kramers ready, we can open the door. We’re not even advertising that we’re open for franchising.“
The open-day, opening-week, opening month volume at the Frugals in Nampa surprised the Kramers and Frugals management.
“We didn’t anticipate this much volume in the first week,” Clifford said.
Kramer reported to Montana & Idaho Community Development Corp. that 2,500 burgers and sandwiches were served in one two-day period. The Frugal Burger costs $2.59.
“It’s been absolutely crazy,” Kramer said told the Idaho Business Review. “We did not advertise, did not do social media. We turned on the lights and people were there. People love shakes in Nampa. We’re selling more shakes here than any of the other stores.”
Frugals captures alternative financing
Missoula-based Montana & Idaho Community Development Corp. issued a near $900,000 loan, the primary financing for Frugals in Nampa. Montana & Idaho specialize in financing for projects not quite bank-ready.
Kramer said he was in extended conversations with a Montana bank but the project was moving forward without a loan issued. He said the bank turned to Montana & Idaho CDC to issue a joint loan, but Montana & Idaho CDC chose to carry the loan by itself. Kramer recalled Montana & Idaho had a loan ready in four days.
Montana & Idaho CDC has financed popular Idaho businesses such as Richard’s (the downtown Boise restaurant), Zeppole Baking Co. and Tin Roof Tacos.