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Culver’s in Marinette under new ownership

Northeast Wisconsin entrepreneur also owns, operates Suamico location

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March 23, 2023

MARINETTE – A handful of years ago, Joseph Clemmons set a goal for himself.

“I wanted to own and operate my own Culver’s,” he said. “Growing up in Portage, I started working at Culver’s when I was 14. At that time, it was simply a part-time high school job, but I liked it.”

A few years later, Clemmons bought his first Culver’s slightly north of Green Bay in the Village of Suamico.

“I was only 22 years old at the time,” the now 24 year old said. “Out of high school, I went to culinary school at Madison Area Technical College (MATC), but I learned cooking wasn’t what I wanted to do long-term.”

From there, Clemmons said his path pivoted.

“I switched over to business management at MATC,” he said. “I graduated in 2020 – the prime of COVID – and continued working at Culver’s, moving my way up the ranks to general manager when I was 21.”

After securing the Suamico location – with the help of S&L Companies, a Culver’s franchiser out of Portage – Clemmons said he began looking for more.

“I was being patient, seeing what might happen,” he said. “I thought about building a restaurant, but I wasn’t sure where – that’s when the Marinette store came up in conversations.”

Clemmons said Dan and Maureen Hass and Joanne and Tony Furton owned and operated the Marinette Culver’s location (1225 Marinette Ave.) for 22 years before deciding to move on.

“I officially took over Feb. 1,” he said. “I’m extremely excited about the possibilities and opportunities in Marinette.”
Since taking over, Clemmons said the Marinette location has already had two record sales days in the first month.
“It’s in a great spot right on Highway 41,” he said. “I plan to split my time between Marinette and Suamico.”
Traversing through COVID
When Clemmons secured ownership of the Suamico Culver’s in August 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic was in the rearview mirror – at least a little bit.

“Through COVID, our lobbies were closed,” he said. “Our drive-throughs were super busy, and they still are. We thought after COVID it would calm down and take a break, but that’s not the case – it grew us even more.”

Joseph Clemmons

When restaurant lobbies reopened, Clemmons said traffic consistently picked up.

“Our lobby sales are growing,” he said. “People missed the camaraderie and socializing in the lobby, so I’m glad we are back to full strength there.”
Marinette store changes
Clemmons said he has a few things planned for the Marinette location.

“We’re planning on putting a double drive-through in,” he said. “There is only a single lane there now, but many Culver’s are going to double lanes to help with the flow of traffic. People don’t want to wait for food when they see 15 cars lined up.”

If you order food via the drive-through or head inside at any Culver’s, Clemmons said you’ll see signs posted about the speed your food will be delivered – there might be a few minutes wait.

“Culver’s thrives on, ‘Fresh, never frozen beef,’” Clemmons said. “All of our burgers are made fresh and to order – that’s why it takes a bit longer to get your food out to you.”

What is Clemmons’ favorite menu item, you might ask?

“I’d have to go with the bacon deluxe,” he said. “It has a little bit of everything in there.”

Clemmons said he’s also looking at increasing the Marinette store’s hours.

“As we figure out the staffing, I’d like to stay open until 11 p.m.,” he said. “When we did that in Suamico, it helped increase our sales a lot. We have to be open from at least 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, but you can change your hours to increase the time open. I’m hoping to increase the hours in April.”
Starting young, giving back
From starting at Culver’s at 14 to owning his first location by 22, Clemmons said it shows “anything is possible.”

“I started by running food out to guests,” he said. “I’ve put my head down and worked hard. I get a few looks here and there when I tell people my age, but it’s all good.”

Culver’s was founded in 1984 in Sauk City, Wisconsin. The chain operates primarily in the Midwest and has about 900 restaurants in 26 states. Photo Courtesy of Culver’s

Clemmons said he went through a mentorship program with Culver’s – something he’d like to do for someone in the future, too.

“I’m not quite sure about owning another Culver’s on my own yet, but I’d like to get an investing partner with me,” he said. “I’d like to find someone whom I can mentor to help them open their own Culver’s. Maybe we build one, buy one, etc.”
More on S&L Companies
There are five Culver’s in the Green Bay area, three of which Clemmons said are owned by S&L Companies.

“S&L Companies owns 89 Culver’s in Florida, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin and soon, Alabama and a few other places,” he said. “S&L Companies owns the majority of the business, but then they give people like me the opportunity to get into the Culver’s world. I’m responsible for the everyday running of the business, upkeep, cleanliness and landscaping – when there is a problem, I have to fix it. You could say S&L Companies is the managing partner with me.”

Clemmons said S&L Companies is “good to employees and prospective owners.”

“They offer immaculate opportunities,” he said. “The possibilities are endless. You hear a lot of stories about people starting young with a company and then moving up to management and ownership. It’s possible if you work hard.”

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