Askar adds Stucchi’s ice cream

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Papa Romano’s Enterprises Inc. of Commerce Township is expected to sign a binding letter of intent today to acquire majority control of Stanford LLC Ltd., the licensing company for Stucchi’s.

Saline-based Stucchi’s, founded in 1986, is a manufacturer and wholesaler of premium ice cream.

The company has nine licensed restaurants, about two dozen co-licensed locations and is sold in about 150 grocery and convenience stores.

“I have been looking for a dessert brand for quite awhile,” said Casey Askar, Papa Romano’s chairman and CEO.

Askar said his goal is to build a multi-brand food and restaurant company similar to Yum! Brands Inc., which owns KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and Long John Silver’s.

Papa Romano’s acquired an equity stake in Mr. Pita in October. The two companies had combined systemwide sales of about $34 million last year.

“The main objective was to find a brand that is made off-site because of operational issues,” Askar said. “It just would not work to make ice cream in your kitchen while you are making pizza.”

The deal is expected to close in April, Askar said. He declined to disclose the purchase price or last year’s sales.

Stucchi’s two restaurants in Ann Arbor are popular among University of Michigan students and alumni and are known for providing generous portions.

Papa Romano’s plans to offer existing Mr. Pita and Papa Romano’s franchisees the opportunity to add Stucchi’s to their restaurants and to expand Stucchi’s stand-alone restaurants.

Plans call for Stucchi’s three existing owners to retain ownership positions and existing management roles, said Jason Abbate, co-owner and production manager for Stucchi’s.

“I think all the companies complement each other, and it allows the franchisees the opportunity to use all the different brands,” Abbate said. “For us, being in the ice cream business, it’s going to help generate extra sales in the winter.”

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