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Dagwood’s franchisees sue what’s left of franchisor

TAMPA Fla. More than a dozen franchisees of Dagwood’s Sandwich Shoppes filed a lawsuit in a federal district court Monday against the startup chain, reportedly alleging they were misled by the franchisor and some of its executives about costs and sales. They are seeking $1 million in damages.

Efforts to reach the defendants in the lawsuit on Tuesday were unsuccessful. They include Lamar Berry, the industry veteran who served as Dagwood’s chief executive, and Dean Young, the Clearwater, Fla.-based author of the "Blondie" cartoon strip, who was involved in the venture. The Dagwood’s name was taken from the syndicated comic strip.

The suit reportedly alleges that they and other defendants overstated sales projections, underestimated startup costs and misrepresented the franchisor’s financial state. According to local press reports, the plaintiffs asserted that they invested millions of dollars into the endeavor. While franchised units remain in operation, the brand’s parent cut its staff in December to four people from more than 20, to the expressed surprise of some licensees. The company said it could no longer cover the pay for the full staff.

Young and Berry, a 14-year veteran of the Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits chain, launched Dagwood’s in 2006 with the opening of a store in the Clearwater area. The concept is based on the towering Dagwood sandwich, which debuted in the "Blondie" comic strip 70 years ago. The strip itself first appeared in 1930, the brainchild of Young's father, Chic Young, who later turned it over to the son.

Dagwood’s planned to sell 89 development territories for between $100,000 and $300,000 each. In turn, the “marketing partners,” akin to area developers, would sell franchises for a $20,000 fee, excluding real estate or build-out costs. Only 15 locations in eight states have opened, according to Dagwood’s website. It has said at least since December that seven more stores are “opening soon.”

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