Lenny's News and Interviews
Commercial Appeal - Lenny's Sub Partners Strike Recipe for SuccessNovember 15, 2007
Edith Kelly-Green and Marlin Harris are the yin-yang team of the Lenny's Sub Shop world. Edith Kelly-Green and Marlin Harris are partners in eight Lenny's locations, including the busiest location in the sub shop chain, at Memphis International Airport. Their individual strong points in management and food service make them the all-stars of the Memphis-based company.
Edith Kelly-Green and Marlin Harris are partners in eight Lenny's locations, including the busiest location in the sub shop chain, at Memphis International Airport. Their individual strong points in management and food service make them the all-stars of the Memphis-based company.
She's a former FedEx officer; he's a longtime food service guy. She invested in Lenny's to create a career path for her children; he ponied up his own money, including maxing out every credit card at age 28 for his first share in a Lenny's franchise back in 1999.
For as much as they are opposite, there's a city full of people who'd love a chance to join The HK Group, shorthand for Harris and King.
Not only do they own the No. 1-volume Lenny's store in the 18-state company (Memphis International Airport location), but their store at Cooper and Madison is very often No. 2, creating a giant measuring stick for the rest of the company, a Memphis-born phenomenon with 142 stores today and 18 more scheduled to open before the year is over.
"My goal was to have 10 stores because I wanted to have a voice in how things are run," Kelly-Green says with the insight of a woman who worked her way up the career ladder at FedEx, starting as a CPA in 1977 and retiring at age 50 in 2003 with a pension and executive-level stock options.
"With a franchise, you are really duplicating and replicating a concept, which means you spend a lot less additional time adding another," she said.
Today, she is one of five franchisees with a seat on the Lenny's advisory board. New concepts are tested in the Harris-King stores, plus the three they own independently in Oxford and Batesville, Miss., and Arlington.
When Kelly-Green met Harris in 2004, she found the other half of herself.
Not only was he the second person Lenny's founder Len Moore hired in the startup days, but Harris also was Moore's partner in the first, second and third stores, a sturdy recommendation in itself.
"We call them the dynamic duo around here," said George Alvord, Lenny's chief executive officer.
"Edith is a seasoned business person, and very talented and very organized,"
Alvord said. "Marlin is just very, very good in food service."
When the two partnered, Harris owned six stores, each with a different partner.
First, they bought the airport Lenny's in 2005 on Alvord's recommendation.
With it under their belt, Kelly-Green bought out Harris' partners in 2006, cementing a union that today includes their eight jointly owned stores in Memphis, including the newest at 521 Highland near the University of Memphis.
"We always have the largest volume because we have the airport," Harris said. "But the other local guys are pressing hard. Being in the top tier of stores for Lenny's is tough."
Each has its own pricing, for instance, and offers its own discounts, including a 10 percent off deal right now for customers who bring a current church bulletin to the Highland store.
"We offer different promotions, depending on where the store is in its development," said Harris, a new father with enough temerity to see opportunity in risk.
Under provisions of the Memphis Shelby County Airport Authority, for instance, 23 percent of the airport concessions programs must be owned by minority or disadvantaged business enterprises.
But Harris has proposals out to expand Lenny's in several airports, which fits nicely with Alvord's expansion plans.
At 61, Alvord plans to have 6,000 stores open "before I pass onto the other world."
Having The HK Group in the headquarters city improves the odds. For one thing, Alvord has ready access to its business acumen, and two, they ask hard questions.
"Edith questions everything. She's also brought us lots of ideas that all the franchisees can use," Alvord said. "I'm not a dictator. If my franchisees are not successful, we're not successful."
Contact Lenny's Public Relations:Jenna Duett
Marketing and PR Manager