Three local Buffalo Wild Wings franchises -- one of which was at one time the highest-grossing store in the national chain -- have been sold to an out-of-town investor.
Siblings Greg and Doug May and their father, Don, who owned the locations on Bethel Road, West Fifth Avenue and Hilliard-Rome Road, finalized the deal Nov. 20 with Steve Grube, a franchisee with six stores -- soon to be seven -- in West Virginia and two additional stores in Ohio.
The sales price was not disclosed.
"We're leaving the stores in capable and really good hands," Greg May said.
Grube, president and CEO of Grube Inc. in Defiance, Ohio, said Columbus is familiar ground. He graduated from Ohio State University in 1991 and was a regular customer of the original Buffalo Wild Wings, then called BW3, on campus.
"It's where it all started," he said.
No personnel or physical changes are immediately planned, although the Hilliard-Rome store will get a major facelift sometime in the next 18 months, Grube said.
Brad Haber, the company's chief operating officer, said the craft beer selection might improve in coming months. He said Buffalo Wild Wings is contractually bound to carry many of its beers on tap, but will dedicate "as many taps as we can to craft beer."
In February 1996, the Mays opened their first store in the Bethel Centre. At the time, it was somewhat of an unusual location -- an off-campus destination embedded in a shopping center and no frontage along a major road.
Yet its popularity quickly swelled and there often was a waiting line to get in.
"For the first five years of its existence, which includes 1996, a partial year, it was the highest-grossing store in the chain," Greg May said.
"Not only was it the highest-grossing store in the chain, it was beating the second location by a healthy margin."
May said several factors led to the decision to sell the franchises, but he declined to cite one specifically.
He said he will miss the camaraderie among guests and staff.
"Our employees, past and present, along with our loyal customers, all feel like family to us, which truly makes this a bittersweet moment for my family," he said.
"It's been a great run, but it wouldn't have been possible without their support, and we will be forever grateful."
May said he plans to return to the industry in the future.
"At some point, I'm going to push the reset button," he said.
"I want to do something else. I don't know what it is yet."