Francis Kirley is a serial entrepreneur and the founder of Nexion Health, one of the largest nursing home chains in the United States. Fran’s son, Chris Kirley, is the director of operations for Kirley Management. Now, the father and son team are working together to launch the first Rise Biscuits & Donuts franchise in the Greater Baltimore area.
Chris and Fran sat down with citybizlist to talk about bringing the popular North Carolina breakfast spot up north, navigating roles in the family business, and working alongside Rise CEO and founder Tom Ferguson. (For more information about Fran, be sure to watch our interview with him recorded earlier this year).
EDWIN WARFIELD: Let’s talk about how you made the decision to pivot and focus on bringing Rise Biscuits & Donuts to the Baltimore area. What inspired you to become a franchisee for this particular business?
FRAN KIRLEY: My daughter, Bevan, lives in Durham, North Carolina, and she was always telling us about these great donuts she gets on the weekend. We had the opportunity to visit her when we she got married. We had a big event for her, and for dessert we ordered 26 dozen donuts to serve to all the family and friends that came down from New England and Maryland to be there and celebrate Bevan’s wedding. That was the first opportunity that we had a chance to taste these fabulous, cooked fresh daily donuts produced by Rise.
I kiddingly said to Bevan, “Hey, if you ever hear that they are going to franchise, send me an article, send me a call, let me know.” About three months later, she sent me a note, said they are going to franchise. And so based upon that—eating at the wedding and a follow-up with the note about their franchising—we began to drop an inquiry to the franchise people.
CHRIS KIRLEY: It was a weekend trip, but it was very, very interesting. We met with them, actually saw the excitement around one of their more successful locations in South Durham and basically toured the place, got to talk to a lot of employees, as well as customers, and kind of were there just taking it all in. We saw how it worked on a busy morning, and saw what they were doing and the excitement that they brought to people that were there waiting in line for biscuits and donuts. That was the first day, then we got to kind of meet more specifically with them, talk a little bit about our backgrounds and what we were looking to do by bringing the franchise to Maryland, and how we saw that success in the future. Once we went through everything and had a great meeting with them, they eventually came back to us and approved us for some franchises up here.
FRAN KIRLEY: That was great time. It was a great visit—to go down and spend the day. Bevan had always told me, “Dad, you can’t believe the line outside this donut shop every Saturday morning,” so we got there the night before. We got up at 6 o’clock in the morning, parked our car in front of the donut shop at 10 minutes to 7, and there were about 40 people standing in line, which was quite surprising.
Not being shy, we went up and asked, “Why you are in line?” They said, “Well, you know, Rise only makes so many donuts per day, because it’s a quality product produced every day, so if you’re not there to get the donut of your choice, they could sell out.” And they do sell out occasionally on the weekends. People were there to make sure they got the donuts they wanted. They wanted to be first in line. The donuts were made that morning and it was pretty amazing to see the following that developed in North Carolina. In Raleigh–Durham, they have five or six locations; it’s known as a quality place to go have donuts. It’s all take out, there’s no sit-down opportunity at this point, but it does a fabulous morning business on Saturdays—great to see.