In the crowded fast casual sandwich segment, Denver-based Spicy Pickle was a little-known brand when Mark Geman took notice in 2002. Founded by former fine dining chefs Kevin Morrison and Tony Walker, locals regarded its innovative sandwich and panini offerings as unique and delicious, and the small chain developed a cult following. Geman recognized that potential, bought into it that year, became its CEO and launched a franchising initiative in 2003.
Store counts began a slow and steady upward march before hitting the accelerator in 2007, when it swelled to 36 units with the addition of 19 new outlets.
But with 2008, and with just a few new units slated to open, Geman searched for other opportunities to boost the value of Spicy Pickle’s thinly traded stock. Learning that the owners of Vancouver, B.C.- based Bread Garden Urban Café wanted to sell, Geman bought the 11-unit sandwich chain with plans to expand it in Canada and the U.S.