Burger joint to open at old Jackson's store

A year after the Connecticut-based Jake's Wayback Burgers announced it was coming to Medford, the local franchisee finally has the right location.

Patience paid off for Eric Jenkins, who plans an April opening at McAndrews Marketplace in the former Jackson's Men's Store location.

Jenkins, a 39-year-old Eagle Point resident who spends every other month in Angola flying a helicopter for an oil and gas exploration company, signed his lease in June, then had to bide his time.

"We were negotiating a lease when we found out Jackson's owner wanted to continue through the Christmas season before liquidating and retiring," Jenkins said. "But we really liked the location and were willing to hold out for it. There weren't a lot of locations with visibility of that place with the high-traffic counts. We think with the other businesses around, there will be a good draw."

While burgers aren't a big part of his career background, Jenkins said his global commute can get tiresome.

"It will be a second career," he said. "It's a new venture for me and I can't go to Africa for the rest of my life."

The original Jake's Burgers opened in 1991 in Newark, Del., near the University of Delaware. The company began franchising operations in 2008, and in 2010 Wayback was inserted into the company name. The Medford Jake's will be the second in Oregon. The first opened late last year in Eugene, where Jenkins and his store manager Denis Poletto are being trained. There are presently 62 locations nationally; by March there will be 70.

Jenkins said he looked at other casual burger opportunities, including Virginia-based Five Guys, Denver-based Smashburger and Louisville-based Elevation Burger.

"They had a little broader of a menu than the others," Jenkins said of Jake's. "Most of them do just burger and fries. Wayback had some salads, chicken sandwiches and really good milkshakes."

One notable difference in his offerings from the nearby Carl's Jr., McDonald's and Wendy's, he said, is that Jake's will offer draft beer.

Jake's executive vice president Bill Chemero said start-ups begin with 20 to 25 employees.

"Our experience shows there seems to be a mad rush for the first 30, 60 or 90 days," Chemero said in a phone call from the company headquarters in Cheshire, Conn. "We do well during the first six months because everyone wants to check us out. Then things level out.

"Typically, going into the second year we will have established a customer base. Whether you do better your second year depends on customer service; the better it is the more repeat business you get."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness.

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