COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – Following the news that the iconic Burger King on Wynnton Road had closed, the franchise owner, Schuster Enterprises thanked the Columbus community for their support over the years at that location.
“Every 20 years, you have to renew your franchise agreement, and at that time you have to come up to the current standards for the system. That is currently digital menu boards, double drive through, and several other pieces where you have to meet their requirements,” Ron Cooper, the Director of Human Resources at Schuster Enterprises said.
The closure comes after months of negotiations, following the original franchise agreement’s expiration in June 2020.
“The franchise agreement expired in June and we’ve been going month to month since then, trying to get an exception to the rule. They’re not willing to give an exception, and we’re not willing to alter the structure of the building,” Cooper told News 3.
According to Cooper, the renovations to the “house,” a location well known and much loved by the Columbus community, was a line Schuster won’t budge on due to the historical value of the house and what it would mean to the community if it was altered.
“We didn’t submit it to an architect because we weren’t willing to make the changes at this point, we came to an impasse,” Cooper said. “We haven’t even considered at this point.”
While the operations at the location have stopped, Schuster is continuing to negotiate with Burger King. The hope, locally, is that they will approve the exception for the property. In the meantime, the store’s closure means that the employees had to leave.
Despite the employees having to leave the store, Cooper says nobody lost their jobs.
“All of the employees at the restaurant, with the exception of one who is on vacation this week, is already working at another location,” Cooper said.
Schuster Enterprises operates nine Burger King locations in Columbus and two in Phenix City. The employees of the Wynnton Road location were even allowed to choose the location they went to, rather than be assigned.
Still, with the property currently up for sale through the W.C. Bradley Company, with Pete Hart listing the home for sale. The iconic property is currently selling for $1.3 million. Cooper says while there has been some interest, no purchase offers had been received as of Oct. 22.
Now, the location’s fate is mostly a waiting game.
“It’s who calls whose bluff first, at this point we’ve closed the restaurant, which of course they did not say we would do. So if they’d be willing to make an exception is the million dollar question,” Cooper said.
The historic property is a former home of the Buck family of Columbus. The house-turned-restaurant has remained so iconic due to the internal layout remaining the same. Cooper says the building is also full of old historic photos of and from Columbus, dating back to the 1930s, some even earlier.
Cooper says the support of the Columbus community means a great deal to himself, and Schuster Enterprises.
One of the things we’d like to do is thank the community. That location has been there for 40 years, and we couldn’t do it without the support of Columbus, we couldn’t do it without the support of local businesses. Like I said, it’s been a meeting place for as long as I can remember and we’re very thankful for our vendors, the people in Columbus that have supported it. Over the 40 years, we’ve had over 2,000 employees come and go there, getting their first job or whatever, and it means a lot to us to support our community, so thank you Columbus.