Wednesday, June 6, 2018

John Cassimus of Zoës Kitchen Fame Liquidates Restaurant Holdings to Enter Liquidation Retail Business

John Cassimus, the restaurateur behind Zoës Kitchen, Maki Fresh, Miss Dots and Jinsei, is leaving the restaurant industry and going into the liquidation business according to a report by  Cassimus, whose parents Marcus & Zoë started Zoës Kitchen in 1995 in Homewood, Alabama, is largely credited with growing the restaurant into the brand that it is today - publicly traded, with over 250 locations - although he has not been involved in any official capacity since his departure as CEO in late 2008.   
Aside from Zoës, Cassimus started and owned a number of other restaurants, primarily in Alabama, including Maki Fresh, a quick-serve sushi restaurant, Miss Dots, a fried chicken fast casual eatery, and Jinsei, a full-service, upscale Japanese restaurant.  Cassimus also owns Sawtooth Plantation, a hunting destination in southeast Alabama.   

Over the past few months, Cassimus, 51, sold all of his restaurant holdings, including the lone Atlanta area Maki Fresh at Peachtree Battle shopping center in Buckhead, in advance of his pivot into retail.  Cassimus also reportedly liquidated what he previously described as a "significant" stake in Zoës stock.  

Later this month, Cassimus will open a franchise of Guntersville,Alabama-based Mike's Merchandise in Pelham, a suburb of Birmingham.  The new 26,000 square-foot Mike's Merchandise will specialize in discounted goods, including construction products, hardware, appliances, housewares, baby products, clothing, books and toys, among other products.  Mike's Merchandise is known to source its merchandise from retailers such as The Home Depot, Walmart and Target.  

"The discount retail industry has been thriving over the past several years and with the domination of online sales driving other large retailers out of business, it has created an opportunity," Cassimus told "I look forward to this new chapter in my career and to serving the people of mid-Alabama."  

When asked why he left the restaurant business, Cassimus said: "It was just time to move on."  He said the risk in the restaurant industry is high. There are too many restaurants for the demand right now, Cassimus said.  

Mike Jones started Mike's Merchandise in the 1980s and today operates stores in Guntersville (the original), Decatur, Muscle Shoals and Huntsville. Jones' former employee Albert Henry operates franchised locations in Auburn and Montgomery. Jones has said previously he wants to keep the business "in the family," and in bringing on Cassimus as a franchisee, he is doing so in a way, as John is dating Jones' oldest daughter, Mamie. 
Since 2000, Jones has also operated an eBay store - Mike-Merchandise - where his feedback rating indicates he has sold in excess of 23,000 items and where his current inventory is nearly 8,000 items.  Jones also sells on 
Calls to Cassimus Tuesday afternoon were not returned, but it would not shock us to see him pursue the opening of additional Mike's stores, perhaps in suburban Atlanta, as he is known to spend time in Atlanta.  Landlords grappling with surplus big box space in the wake of closures of Sears, Kmart, Gander Mountain, hhgregg, Toys R Us and Babies R Us, among others, could be interested in adding Mike's to their centers.  

If stock prices are any indication, Cassimus may very well have been right to move from restaurants to off-price retail.  

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based Ollie's Bargain Outlet (NASDAQ: OLLI) is up over 40% this year and currently trades at about $75, while now Plano, Texas-based Zoës Kitchen (NYSE: ZOES) currently trades at about $9 and is down over 40% this year.  

If Mike's does further expand, it would compete with Ollie's, Big Lots and Bargain Hunt, as well as Robinson Salvage, a store closer to it in size and one that currently operates three stores in Georgia in Carrollton (2) and Dalton.  

The new Mike's Merchandise will be located at 2760 Pelham Parkway in Shelby Mart shopping center. Hours of operation will be Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Have you ever been to a Mike's Merchandise?  Are you a fan of off-price retail?  Do you Mike's Merchandise would do well if it were to expand to metro Atlanta?  

Please share your thoughts below


amyers said...

Well, that's interesting to say the least. If you've ever been in a Mike's, it's very interesting. It's mostly tools, nuts and bolts (literally), large collection of in-house Comfort Color tee brands. It's nothing like Ollies really, but glad they're expanding.

Anonymous said...

I use to visit the MM store in Guntersville and Huntsville when I was in the area. As noted by another poster, MM is nothing like a Ollie's or a Big Lots. It may appeal to a DIYer or perhaps a self-employed construction, plumber or electrical worker, but the rest of its merchandise is low quality. That is, if you can find it. Cluttered aisles, merchandise lying in heaps, etc.

Wherever the merchandise is coming from, and I doubt a substantial amount is from WalMart or Home Depot unless it's damaged goods, the quality over the last several years has worsened. Maybe ten years ago MM was okay, but not anymore.

Anonymous said...

Dang! John Cassimus is a good looking man!

Anonymous said...

Cassimmus isn’t hurting...
He sold Zoe’s for 36 million.... is fought his ventures since have cost him too much..... your a trash slinger.... page 7 atl

Anonymous said...

In the past i have visited MM at their original North Alabama location. An interesting store to say the least in the fact you do not know what you will find.

You bring out a great point with the number vacant store fronts rent should be cheep.

I do wish Mr. Cassimus good luck and I am happy to see MM has additional stores in Alabama.

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