Aubree's Pizzeria expands into Livingston County, owners seek to open more locations
The Ypsilanti-based Aubree's Pizzeria & Grill is expanding into Livingston County and President Andy French said the business hopes to open at least two more southeastern Michigan locations this year.
Aubree's will open a new restaurant in Genoa Township, near Howell, replacing the former T.W. & Friends restaurant, which was open for 12 years.
Joe Kacaj of Oxford and Matthew Morrison of Dexter, partnered to open Aubree’s second franchised location. Of the six Aubree's locations, four are company-owned and two are franchisee-owned.
"I think it's huge expanding to Livingston County," Morrison said. "Being able to get the Aubree’s brand up west into the Genoa Township area, that's huge... It's a lifelong dream to be able to own my own restaurant. It's going to be a beautiful relationship with that community."
French, along with his parents and co-owners Sandee and Bill, have plans to further expand. French said he's considered Ann Arbor as a possible location, but only if it's the right place.
"Ann Arbor is a possibility," French said. "We like southeast Michigan and we see opportunity going west."
French said going west into other communities within the state is something the family will continue to look at. Locations such as Lansing, Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids could be viable locations.
"We would be open to doing anything in a two-hour drive time," he said.
French said the business continues to expand because of its pizza and grill concept, which he believes fits in with most communities looking for family-dining options.
"I believe our commitment to supporting the communities we’re in kind of helps us build and grow and expand our brand," French said.
When the restaurant opened its first location in Ypsilanti at 39 E. Cross St. in the 1970s, it was designed to be a corner bar. In its early years and up until about 2003, more than 80 percent of the bar’s revenue was related to alcohol.
French said that's changed over time. Nearly all of the locations see about an 80-20 split between food and alcohol sales, with the bulk being food sales now.
The business has continued to see a large amount of interest from individuals seeking to open franchises.
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com file photo
"We've been very happy with the level of interest we've received," French said. "We're very excited for this new opportunity in Howell and I believe in the franchisees that will be owning and operating this store... We have a goal of another one to two more restaurants."
The 8,000-square-foot location in Genoa Township will seat about 200 customers and undergo renovations to make it similar to other locations. Morrison said he will hire about 75 people.
"Living in the area, I've always eaten at Aubree's and I've known the French family for a long time," Morrison said. "I thought it would be a great fit for me to move into the franchisee role."
French said the expansion to Livingston County has been in the works for nearly a year. The owner of T.W. & Friends, Dino Tomei, still will own the building and Aubree's will lease the location.
"We like the Howell community," French said. "It kind of fits with the types of communities our other restaurants are in. We believe it's a great opportunity for us and we believe it should be well-received in the community."
The new location will be open by the end of May or the beginning of June, French said.