Former South Bend police officer Bill Pelletier will soon be selling "Amish crack" to Mishawaka, Granger and South Bend residents.
Pelletier laughed when asked what he thinks of the term, in light of his former line of work. He said he prefers "Amish Love" to describe Middlebury-based Rise 'N Roll Bakery's two signature products:its cinnamon caramel donuts and its nut brittle "crunch." Fans say both are so delicious, they're as addictive as crack.
Rise 'N Roll, after years of turning down requests from retailers, such as convenience stores, to sell their products, has decided to grow through franchises. The company has recently sold franchise rights to Pelletier and a partner who has asked to remain anonymous.
Pelletier and his partner are looking at two locations, both of which Rise 'N Roll has approved, near the corner of Grape and Edison roads in Mishawaka, but have yet to finalize an agreement with a landlord.
Rise 'N Roll operations manager Orvin Bontrager, who founded the company in 2001 and sold one franchise in Nappanee, has somewhat reluctantly embraced this growth.
"That was not our idea, necessarily, but it was just because there were so many requests coming in for franchise opportunities," he said. "We were saying no, no, no, no, but then finally sat down and said, 'maybe this is the route we should be taking.'"
Bontrager envisions three franchises in Fort Wayne, one in Warsaw and one in South Bend that would also be operated by Pelletier and his partner, if they do well with the Mishawaka store.
The franchisees will make the same deli sandwiches and deep dish supreme pizzas that the Middlebury store sells at lunch, but all baked goods will be made daily in Middlebury and delivered to the stores.
"That helps keep overhead down, such as labor and equipment, for the franchise location," Bontrager said. "The higher volume will allow us to keep our overhead down as well. It will ensure the quality is the same quality as Rise 'N Roll Middlebury, and being able to keep them within 75 miles radius, it lets us get that product to them fresh every morning at the same time. They'll be able to open at least by seven."
A handful of retailers sell Rise 'N Roll products now, but that will eventually end as more franchises are awarded. Bontrager said he will give those retailers 30 days' notice before cutting them off.
"If you pay a franchise fee, than you don't want Joe Blow 10 miles down the road to be buying it from us. It makes you feel better as a franchisee to know that they have to come to your destination in order to buy the product," he said.
The exception will be Nolt's Marketplace in Fort Wayne. Because Rise 'N Roll products were a big part of that store's decision to open, Rise 'N Roll doesn't feel right about pulling their product, Bontrager said.
Rise 'N Roll is adding 12,000 square feet to the Middlebury bakery, partly because space is tight already, but also to handle the projected production increase from franchising.
"We hope by the end of this year to have a few more (franchise stores) up and running," Bontrager said. "We're not sure about locations. We're open-minded and keeping all options open. There's a lot of applications coming in."
On April 25, 2009, Pelletier was shot in the line of duty with the South Bend police. After that, he worked in the Metro Special Victims Unit, which investigates domestic violence and child molestation cases. After three years, he retired in search of something that wasn't so depressing.
He enjoyed managing the front end of a Logan's Roadhouse for two years, but the restaurant business' nights and weekends forced him to miss too many of his 15-year-old daughter's volleyball games and his 17-year-old son's Penn High School robotics program events.
Pelletier said he likes the fact that Rise 'N Roll is closed on Sundays and not open late at night, along with the overall Christian ethics practiced in the Amish and Mennonite cultures.
"They're very neat people, very disciplined," he said. "I admire those traits and I admire Orvin. He said my personality reminded him of himself in pursuing his dreams."
Pelletier is now a supervisor in the city of South Bend's streets department, a job he will quit by the time his store opens, tentatively set for early July.
Pelletier said he and his partner have been looking for the right location for months. They had to decide whether Rise 'N Roll enjoys enough brand recognition to be a destination location in Mishawaka, or if it needed more drive-by traffic volume to attract people who've never heard of it.
They have concluded that the Grape/Edison area provides a little of both, and it's in a location that will serve Mishawaka, Granger and South Bend. Pelletier said his son's robotics club recently sold Rise 'N Roll donuts as a fund-raiser from the parking lot of Barnaby's, at the southeast corner of the intersection. They were there from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on a Friday and Saturday morning, and sold 600 dozen cinnamon caramel donuts at $10 a dozen. He realized they could have sold many more if they had brought more, and he saw people who came Friday morning return on Saturday.
"That helped me to feel very comfortable about this," he said.
Pelletier said he hopes to open by July.
"I think we're going to be a great fit for branding the Rise 'N Roll identity," he said. "It's exciting to be part of this process."