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Marie Callender's to open in November

Restaurant takes over former Wild Plum site in northeast Medford

The former Wild Plum location in Medford is scheduled to reopen as a Marie Callender's restaurant early in November.

The franchisee is Cal First Enterprises, a Redding-based company headed by Joe Wong that also operates the Applebee's Neighborhood Grill and Bar in Medford.

The Wild Plum, at 1528 Biddle Road, closed in August after about 14 years of operation. It was one of four Wild Plum restaurants in Oregon operated by Wild Plum Restaurants in Eugene. All four have been closed, according to a spokesman who declined to elaborate.

The Medford restaurant made news in 1987 when a pressure relief device on a steam double-boiler failed, causing an explosion that blew out a large section of the building's east wall, hurled debris 100 feet, collapsed part of the roof and injured two employees.

Rumors about the arrival of a Marie Callender's have swirled through the valley for months.

We've been waiting for some equipment, said Chris Hazler, project and marketing coordinator for Cal First. We're going to gut the whole restaurant and do a whole remodel inside and out.

He said the design will conform to the look of other Marie Callender's restaurants.

The chain, based in Orange County, Calif., operates more than 140 restaurants throughout the West, including Oregon locations in Gresham and Eugene.

Marie Callender's specializes in pies and generous portions of scrumptious, well prepared foods, as the company puts it.

The company takes its name from the founder, who opened a wholesale bakery in Southern California in 1948. Her son, Don Callender, opened the first Marie Callender's restaurant in Southern California in 1964.

The new restaurant will employ about 140 people when it opens, Hazler said.