WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - A well-known Wilmington establishment, Chop's Deli, is asking for the community's help to save its restaurants.
A GoFundMe link was posted to the restaurant's Facebook page Saturday, explaining Chops needs to raise $100,000 by Wednesday to "manage some crippling debt." The GoFundMe was made June 15.
If the money isn't raised, all four of Chops' locations will close.
Restaurant owner Brad Corpening said they first started to notice they were in trouble in the fall of 2017. He said they took out a loan to help with almost $100,000 worth of debt in October of 2017, but the aggressive loan repayment coupled with the existing debt snowballed.
"It became very apparent that at a certain point the debt repayment was taking up enough of our revenue that it was becoming difficult to keep up with the expenses of our business," he said.
Corpening acknowledged that the GoFundMe is a hail Mary
"It's not a proud moment," Corpering said. "I'm rather ashamed to be asking for help but at the same time this isn't about me this is about this and what we've built here and about what we could continue to do."
However, Corpening admits this is his fault. He said the shop's expansions were disorganized and there wasn't a solid plan.
"Opportunities are exciting and the possibilities of growth are exciting but at a certain point we should've stopped and said, 'Wait can we really afford to do this? Can we really cover all of our bases with the existing locations and any subsequent locations?'
"That lack of preparedness meant that we started out behind the eight ball in each case [opening a new location], and the old adage of robbing Peter to pay Paul comes to mind, where trying to cover shortages with new locations we've spent money from existing locations, where that would've been better served making sure those existing locations are safe," Corpening said.
The $100,000 they are trying to raise would all go towards keeping the downtown location, the original Chops open. If the money is raised, they will most likely close the other locations, according to Corpening.
The shop is open to other options to stay in business, Corpening said, including lenders or people buying the shops.
Many of the customers who ate at Chops downtown, including regular Ashley Welch, was shocked to hear about the sandwich shop possibly closing.
"It makes me a little sad because we love this place and want others to love it too, so I hate that he [Corpening] has found a time when isn't doing so well, but we hope that others get behind him in the community because he lives in the community he knows this area he has been here for a while and hopefully people back him up," Welch said.
She and her husband plan to donate to the GoFundMe.
Corpening said he knows some customers may not have sympathy for him and he said he understands.
"Some of this is pretty much restaurant 101," Corpening said. "But unfortunately, it has taken us a long time to get to the point where we're making some of these changes. To some, that could be seen as too little too late and that may be the case."
"It has been an amazingly enriching experience for me to serve this community. To come up and get up in the morning and come down here and say alright we're going to make lunch for everybody, let's get ready, let's get going," he said.
As of Sunday evening, the GoFundMe had raised $5,645.