BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – No one will notice any changes when they walk up to a Handel’s window — Chocolate Pecan, Spouse like a House and Graham Central Station will all be there. But, two months ago, Handel’s sold part of its business to ClearLight Partners, a private equity firm in Newport Beach, California. What you will notice, eventually, are more Handel’s franchises across the country.
“We did it primarily in an effort to help expand our base of stores,” said Handel’s Chief Operating Officer Jim Brown.
“When times are bad, you want to get an ice cream cone to feel good about yourself,” said Lenny Fisher, who bought Alice Handel’s single store in 1985.
Today, there are 50 Handel’s in 10 states, with 16 more opening this year. Plus, the company gets more applications every week.
“I would say it was more than we could handle and maybe overwhelming might be a good word. But, the point being is that we knew we couldn’t do it the way we were doing business as it stands,” Brown said.
So, just how many Handel’s stores could there be someday?
“We think the numbers could be big and so does everybody else,” Brown said.
Brown would not discuss the financial arraignment or say if Handel’s or ClearLight was the majority owner.
“There’s a partnership deal here. I’m not willing to discuss the percentages, that’s not important,” Brown said.
But he did say that Handel’s has been entertaining offers to sell or partner with other businesses for two years now.
“We certainly weren’t out there looking to sell or look for a partner, these folks came calling to us,” Brown said.
Fisher will remain as president and CEO and the headquarters will remain in Canfield.
The biggest change will be more stores — New England and the Carolinas are being considered.
But, it’ll still be the same old Handel’s.
“There’s no changes in terms of how we’re making ice cream. It’s everything the same but in terms of being able to spread the gospel, so to speak, we needed some help,” Brown said.
In a news release, Andrew Brennan, a partner in ClearLight, said, “We knew Handel’s was special from the moment we were introduced to the business. It represents a chance to introduce Handel’s to more people across the country.”