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Tropical Smoothie Cafe

STORY AND PHOTOS BY JOE JANCSURAK


Twelve years ago, Brandon Korman and his business partner and wife of 15 years, Deena, were unfamiliar with Wilmington and Tropical Smoothie Cafés. Now the Leland (Waterford) residents are totally immersed in the local culture and are owners of three Tropical Smoothie Café locations in the Long Leaf Mall, Porters Neck and Belville, the newest and fastest growing location, now celebrating its fifth year and where year-over-year sales grew by 30 percent in 2022.


Having spent 10 years working in media research, marketing and sales, Brandon, a Brooklyn, NY native who met Deena while in high school 24 years ago, was ready for a change of scenery and careers when Deena, also a media-sales veteran, then pregnant with their first son, walked into her first Tropical Smoothie Café in 2010. She liked what she saw so much that she encouraged Brandon to consider becoming one of its franchise owners.



“I was impressed with the vibe, the atmosphere, and the selection of healthy food and smoothie options,” Deena recalled.


“Eventually I met with each of the Tropical Smoothie franchise owners on Long Island, where we were living,” Brandon said. “I liked what they had to say about the company, its business plan and forward-looking vision.” That vision, he says, focuses on innovation, inspiration and strategic expansion. Recognized as one of the country’s fastest growing franchises by Entrepreneur and Nation’s Restaurant News publications, Destin, Florida-based Tropical Smoothie Café, now has 1,200-plus locations, having added a record 158 franchises in 2022.


In 2011, while Brandon was considering becoming a franchisee, Deena’s stepdad bought land in Waterford where he eventually built. And Brandon, being a research guy, began digging deeper into what makes the Wilmington area an attractive place to live and operate a health-conscious restaurant.


“My research revealed two important findings,” Brandon noted. “First, Wilmington is a Top 10 destination for smaller cities when it comes to fitness. Second, residents are 19 percent more likely to eat out than the general population.” (Source: QSR (Quick Service and Fast Casual Restaurants) Magazine).



Fast forward to three stores and a daughter and son later, the Kormans are looking forward to adding to their numbers—stores that is, four more to be exact. The fourth will open in Shallotte in March. Two more are planned for Wilmington later this year and by year-end 2024. And a seventh is in the plans, with date and location still to be determined.

Notwithstanding 12-hour days, staffing challenges and supply-chain issues brought on by Covid, Brandon says it’s all worth it. Stress relief for him comes in the form of his favorite pastime: comedy, with favorite performers such as Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappell and Sebastian Maniscalco serving to inspiring the 41-year-old self-described “funnyman” who has performed at about a dozen open-mic nights at Dead Crow Comedy Room in Wilmington. “To make people laugh brings me joy, for which I am thankful,” he said.

These days there’s much to be thankful for, Brandon continued. “I’m thankful for my district manager Jeffrey Smith who brings with him a decade of restaurant experience, our dedicated managers and staff, our customers, the support we’ve gained from local business owners and the government relief assistance we received during the pandemic. Without it, we might not be here. And I’m especially grateful for my family and the opportunity to work with my wife, the backbone of our business, whose behind-the scenes work remains integral to the success of our operations. While we may not always agree, I wouldn’t trade the time we get to spend together for anything.”



As one might suspect, one of the Kormans’ shared hobbies is cooking. “It’s a great way for us to connect,” Brandon said. “We love cooking all sorts of dishes—from our own egg rolls to falafel to NYC street cart chicken and rice. Our favorite cuisines are Mediterranean, Italian and American, including burgers, fish, rack of lamb, steak, etc.”

And what about the couple’s favorite Tropical Smoothie Café offerings? “My go-to is the Triple Berry Smoothie and Baja Chicken Wrap,” Brandon said. “Mine is the Mocha Madness Smoothie and Thai Chicken Salad,” added Deena.

“The biggest things I want people to know about our stores,” explained Brandon, “is that we provide catering for groups of 10 to 500-plus, we have a phenomenal rewards app for ordering ahead and that in addition to smoothies, we have tons of delicious fresh food options served up in relaxed environments. We really are great gathering spots for the communities we serve.”

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