Freshii invasion a healthy development for city of Winnipeg

WINNIPEG | Saturday, June 20, 2015

MATTHEW CORRIN says he can't disclose much about a significant partnership his Toronto-based Freshii fast-casual, super-healthy restaurant chain is announcing in the coming weeks.

But the former Winnipegger is more than happy to talk about how excited he is that no less than four Freshii outlets are in the works for Winnipeg.

"We have been excited to enter Winnipeg for a long time for a bunch of reasons," Corrin said. "I am a Winnipegger. The city means so much to me." Earlier this month, it was disclosed the 160-outlet chain -- which reached 100 locations faster than both McDonald's and Subway -- is about to announce a partnership with a major U.S.-based retailer.

"All I can say is that the big retailers are getting the picture," said Corrin, 33. "We have the know-how to reach the millennials who are very aware of health and wellness issues when it comes to what they eat." The buzz is Freshii will set up serving its salad wraps, quinoa bowls, burritos and smoothies inside the as-yet-unnamed retailer.

Meanwhile, the first three Winnipeg Freshii locations have been identified, and a fourth is still being sought.

The first one to open in early July will be in the heart of the Corydon strip.

For Coralee Turner, the store is a dream come true.

She and her husband, Troy -- who also operates a Red River Co-op location -- were fortunate enough to benefit from such a prime location Freshii's corporate operations had secured even before the franchisee had been identified.

"We're really excited to be part of this neighbourhood," said Coralee, who's been a stay-at-home mother for 19 years but has always wanted to have her own business.

"I wanted to work in the food business, and Freshii's healthy offering is perfect for me." Troy saw a Free Press story about Freshii in November and thought it was the right fit for their family. (At least two of their children will become part of the staff.) The speed with which they have been able to tool up is testimony to the special attention the company is giving its Winnipeg buildup.

Brett Shenback is opening his Winnipeg location in the Kenaston Village Mall in the early fall.

"The company has been fantastically supportive," Shenback said. "We understand they're great with all their franchisees, but we know that for Matthew and his family, opening in Winnipeg is special." So special that Shenback has Corrin's personal number and texts him regularly and gets a prompt response.

It's not likely all 160 franchisees -- now growing by about two per week -- are in regular communication with the CEO.

A third Winnipeg location is under construction in the domestic-departure lounge at the Richardson International Airport, and franchisee Andrew Seidel is currently in the site-selection process for the fourth.

Freshii made headlines across the U.S. last month after Corrin challenged McDonald's to put a Freshii outlet in a McDonald's store and guaranteeing a $250,000 bump in the store's profits after a year and would repay the difference if it didn't hit the target.

The point Corrin was making was consumers today are sincerely looking for healthy, tasty and convenient food.

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