LAKE CHARLES, LA. (KPLC) -He proposes a $30 million Mardi Gras boardwalk on the Lakefront.... But now concerns surface that Lamar Berry was part of a failed restaurant venture that ultimately went bankrupt.
Posts on kplc tv dot com raise questions many of which city officials are trying to answer. City officials say no project will go forward without meeting their standards.
It was last week when developer Lamar Berry unveiled the $30 million entertainment complex he predicts could make Lake Charles a tourist destination--- but Berry's involvement in a failed restaurant chain now raises concerns about his Lakefront proposal.
The franchise was Dagwood's Sandwich Shoppe-- which eventually went bankrupt. Bankruptcy records say creditors alleged "a pattern of mismanagement...(that ultimately caused the company") to fail..." and that "financial projections were not grounded in reality."
After Berry's company's Lakefront proposal was made public KPLC asked for viewer reaction. In response some posted links to information about the Dagwood restaurant failure. City Attorney Billy Loftin says they will sort out the facts. "Essentially every time you have an unsuccessful franchise, I would suspect there's going to be some unhappy people. What the facts are as related to Mr. Berry's actions, good, bad or indifferent we have not confirmed yet. I do have calls in to the attorneys involved."
Loftin says the city will only do business with those who meet their standards." Though berry says the bankruptcy occurred after he left the company, Mayor Randy Roach agrees the city must move quickly to get the facts. "We can't just rely on what he says. We have to go through the records and go through the documentation and look at what has been dismissed and look at what might still be pending in bankruptcy and see how that effects the operation--see how that particular situation may influence how this operation would work."
Lamar Berry would not do an interview but he emailed a response to his critics. Regarding Dagwood Sandwich Shoppes he says-- he resigned and has had no dealings with the company for three years. Regarding on line posts he says all franchises encounter lawsuits and that someone has a personal ax to grind-- regarding Mardi Gras Boardwalk, he says he is only a limited shareholder and hopes critics don't derail what he calls an exciting initiative.
Finally Berry says his involvement with a failed start-up effort of a small sandwich shoppe concept....should not overshadow 35 years of diligent, honest work and achievements.
For a link to a bankruptcy order dealing with Dagwood's Sandwich Shoppes click here.
Lamar D. Berry, CEO of International Marketing Systems of Metairie, has issued a statement in response to viewer criticism posted on kplctv.com because he is part of the Mardi Gras Boardwalk lakefront development proposal.
Berry once played a key role in the launch of Dagwood's Sandwich Shoppes, which was intended to be a multi-state chain inspired by the comic strip Blondie. He was enlisted for the effort by second-generation cartoonist Dean Young, who draws the Blondie strip created by Chic Young. However, both Berry and Young would leave the struggling enterprise, and the effort later went bankrupt.
Here is Berry's statement in full:
There are questions about Dagwood's and me. I looked over the blog on Channel 7 and realized this needs to be promptly and directly nipped in the bud.
DAGWOOD'S SANDWICH SHOPPES
In 2005 (5 years ago), the Blondie comic strip owner and creator, Dean Young, enlisted me to help him create a sandwich shoppe franchise. He designed the sandwiches (and the menu) and the comic decor for inside the small shoppes and I handled the start-up and marketing. Dean had the controlling interest of stock in the company. We divested stock to a limited number of investors to start the company.
We were successful in selling early territories but when the first dozen or so shopped opened, the average unit sales were a problem. In September of 2007, the investors on the Board of Directors took control as they felt they had a better plan for running the small company. Mr. Young and I resigned and relinquished our stock.
I haven't had an executive or Board position with Dagwood's Sandwich Shoppes since 2007. I've been in New Orleans for the past three years. I have had no dealings, correspondence or consultation with the board (or company) nor have they with me since late 2007 (3 years).
A DISGRUNTLED BLOGGER
It appears clear that a disgruntled person got active with the Channel 7 blog. This person attached a 3-4 year old article about a "potential" lawsuit that never made it into court. The judge determined the language was more inflammatory than factual. The article sensationalized the language of the franchisee's lawsuit, but never bothered to recant anything it published when the plaintiff's suit was dismissed.
I have never seen a franchising company avoid having a disgruntled franchisee sue the company or pursue getting his word heard in the press. McDonald's, Popeyes, Hilton Hotels -- they all encounter franchise lawsuits. Even small start-up franchises have that happen. The Channel 7 blogger who started the Dagwood's distraction appears to have a personal ax to grind -- not furthering the best actions for Lake Charles.
Let me be clear about a topic with which hope the council will concur: The Boardwalk is not my conceptual creation, nor is it a Lamar Berry enterprise. I am one minority share holder among a large development team. The Boardwalk is part of a vision your council has embraced and it seems to be positively exciting for the area. And, the Boardwalk will be populated by retailers with long track records of success -- not "start-ups."
A couple of bloggers (Channel 7) out of 50 tried to go back and forth to hijack the focus of the issue. I hope these efforts don't get this exciting initiative derailed. 95% of the bloggers stayed focused on the Lakefront and the vision for progress being discussed.
Finally, my career has been notable; to some, my achievements have been fairly impressive. I get up to the plate and do my very best. I hope this satisfies the matter in the eyes of the city. Having been involved with a failed start-up effort of a small sandwich shoppe concept was disappointing to me. But it certainly should not over-shadow 35 years of diligent, honest work and achievements.