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SAVED FROM THE CHOPPING BLOCK: Chop’s gets reprieve after influx of diners, meeting with state officials

Aside from generating money, the GoFundMe campaign has created hyper-awareness in our small town, which has been to Chop’s benefit.

As of Wednesday, June 20, all Chop’s Deli locations and related establishments will remain open. Co-owner Brad Corpening confirms with encore, as a result of the “social-media blitz” from public support and the crowd-funding campaign, between an influx of diners since Sunday, contributions from family and friends, and even new investors, they have the means to keep their heads above water for the moment.

ALIVE FOR ANOTHER DAY: Chop’s Deli in downtown Wilmington shares some news on their specials board. Photo by Tami Maggio

“At least by the end of day today, we should be in a more comfortable and safe position with the state to where they’re not going to be threatening to shut us down every five to seven business days,” he explains. “The biggest stress was the state was only willing to give us so much time [to pay]. ”

For the last seven or eight months, between refinancing debt and a slow winter, financial shortages compounded over time. Corpening and his partner, Chris Graham, met with the N.C. Department of Revenue this morning. They have made several payments to the state as a sign of good faith in the last two weeks, of which they’ll continue in the coming days.

Selling the four restaurants never seemed a consideration leading up to the last couple of weeks. However, the more final and lasting solutions remain with refinancing downtown (with a more flexible and accommodating payment plan) and working with investors to sell one or more of the other establishments, including Monkey Junction, Wrightsville Beach and Castle Hayne.

“At this point it’s one of those projects we’re hoping to be able to let run its course,” Corpening notes. “We’ve spoken to a broker and attorney about our options. One of the unfortunate things is, while [closing one or more] would provide a source of funds and really solve some of our issues, it’s not a quick fix or a quick process.”

The owners needed time to pay sales taxes to the state first before pursuing any sales of the restaurants. “We still have to do our due diligence and make sure we’ve got some good values set for the businesses,” he tells. “Obviously we’re not trying to milk somebody, by any means, but in spite of our difficulties there’s still a value for the business.”

The GoFundMe campaign that previous Chop’s employee Joan Childress Wilkerson began on Saturday for the company has now raised almost $11,000; it is now closed for donations. There have been online skeptics criticizing the campaign, and even the state expressed concerns over what those funds would be used for. Corpening says if the money cannot go directly to the businesses (i.e. payments to the state or loans), all of it will go back to donors.

Really, though, aside from generating money, the campaign has created hyper-awareness in the Port City, which has been to Chop’s benefit.

“Quite frankly, I didn’t expect to raise any money,” Corpening says. “That was the widest of nets—a cry for help. I didn’t have the time or energy to find all of the individual people who could possibly help us. But the sale contacts we’ve had, a few I’ve been pursuing this week and last, were all generated from that campaign. So that alone is positive. The fact we’ve raised somewhere around [$11,000] is incredible. That amount of money could have a serious impact on the business.”

To learn more about the developing story of Chop’s Deli potentially closing, click here.

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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