by Nancy Stiles
When you hear Wendy's, you don't exactly think basketball. But two NBA players are aiming to revive the fast-food chain in St. Louis. Junior Bridgeman, a retired player for the Milwaukee Bucks, and Chauncey Billups, who currently plays for the Detroit Pistons, now own all 29 Wendy's restaurants in St. Louis as well as one under construction.
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Neither have ties to the St. Louis area, but Wendy's spokesman Bob Bertini tells Gut Check that Bridgeman is "familiar" with the city. "St. Louis is an important market. We've been gratified by the response of local customers and it's a good opportunity," Bertini says. "Junior and Chauncey saw it as a good opportunity to grow the brand in the market and continue the moment."
51 area Wendy's restaurants, owned by franchisee Ronald Saverin, closed in 2006 after his company declared bankruptcy. Wendy's has slowly but surely been creeping back into the St. Louis market with corporate-owned restaurants.
The partnership between Bridgeman and Billups is part of a bigger push to sell 425 company-owned locations to franchisees. Bertini said at least five of the St. Louis locations, including the one in Chesterfield currently under construction, will feature the new "image activation design" -- WiFi, patios, fireplaces and a sleeker, more modern look.
Bridgeman and Billups did not immediately return calls for comment.