‘Health-casual’ restaurant chain picks downtown


The Toronto-born Freshii franchise serves "health-casual" restaurants in more than 75 cities and 15 countries. Photo via fb.com

Who says fast food can’t be healthy?

That’s the concept behind Freshii, which plans to open its first Michigan restaurant in downtown Grand Rapids — either late this year or in early 2014.

The Toronto-born chain will occupy a 2,300-square-foot space in the recently renovated McKay Tower, at 146 Monroe Center Ave. NW.

The restaurant will create 20-25 jobs, said Mia Jacobs, a spokesperson for Freshii.

Freshii is a "health-casual" restaurant with a menu made with "fresh" and "high-quality" ingredients: wraps, burritos, yogurt, rice bowls, salads, soups, yogurt, as well as breakfast and snacks.

The chain's restaurants feature a variety of seating, including booths, bar stools, lounge chairs and tables.

Jacobs said the immediate plan is for Freshii to open three restaurants in Kent County in the next 5 years, adding that Nathan and Dan Ashcraft are Freshii’s franchisees in the area.

Why Grand Rapids?

“What attracted us to the McKay Tower, first and foremost, was the location,” Jacobs said. “It is truly in the heart of the city, with a great mix of professional buildings and tourist attractions in the surrounding area. Other key factors were the history of building, current renovations and the size of space available.”

Grand Rapids, a “leader in implementing ‘green’ initiatives,” is the perfect city to expand the Freshii brand in, Jacobs said.

“The growth in downtown Grand Rapids, especially residential, made the market extremely appealing,” Jacobs said. “Young professionals looking to work and live downtown have provided a much-needed economic boost.”

Jacobs added that the new downtown farmers market is “only adding more fuel to the fire.”

“We also feel that Freshii's business model aligns with the culture of Grand Rapids," Jacobs said. “Freshii's mission is to provide fresh and nutritious meals that energize people on the go, while minimizing the impact on our environment: The people of Grand Rapids and the surrounding area are active and health-conscious citizens.”

Freshii beginnings

Freshii’s classic entrepreneurial story began in 2005 as the brainchild of Matthew Corrin.

While working as a marketing manager for fashion icon Oscar de La Renta in New York, Corrin frequented the many mom-and-pop delis on his lunch breaks.

After one too many unhealthy lunches, he set out to change the fresh-food business, by creating a model that was branded and scalable.

Corrin, who’s been featured on “Undercover Boss Canada,” was 23 when he became the founder and CEO of Freshii.

Freshii opened its first store in Toronto in 2005. It has grown to almost 100 locations in 40 cities and eight countries.

Corrin has aggressive growth plans to open 700 stores in the next five years.  

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