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EXCLUSIVE: 'I just lost my restaurant for nothing', a business owner's call for help

Since its grand opening in July 2023, three restaurants have left the test kitchen by the end of year.
Posted at 8:56 PM, Jan 03, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-04 19:08:54-05
  • Just six months after its grand opening, one local business formerly at the Cannery test kitchen speaks out about his premature departure.
  • Irie Jamaican Food owner, Dexter Thompson, said low customer numbers and a lack of advertising resulted in businesses like his finding it difficult to afford to stay at the Cannery.
  • Greater Green Bay Chamber representative explains the reality of small businesses and what are some of the top goals for the test kitchen.

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

In mid-July, the Cannery hosted the grand opening of its test kitchen, a place where restaurateurs build their businesses within an 18-24 month span, but by the end of the year, three businesses had already cleared out.

Dexter Thompson, owner of Irie Jamaican Food, said he was forced out in October.

"I'm putting my stuff in the car and I said 'What the hell just happened? I just lost my restaurant for nothing.'"

Ron Franklin, director of entrepreneurship of the Greater Green Bay Chamber, acknowledged the significant change.

"Small businesses come and go," Franklin said. "Some aren't able to grow the way they want to be, some don't end up liking the lifestyle, full-time restaurant operation, it's not for everyone. (Thompson) left on his own accord, I believe to maintain his food truck side of the business."

Dexter says that's not true.

The video shows Dexter explaining his side of the story of how he was kicked out of the Cannery.

Dexter said due to low numbers of customers at the Cannery, along with the "lack of advertising from management", affording to keep his business there became more difficult.

"At the Cannery, you don't make anything every day," Thompson said. "So whatever product I need, if I need cabbage or cheese or whatever, I have to stay and order it. Then they give you a check on Wednesday and that doesn't clear until Friday. So you got all of two weeks, cooking every day with no money to buy (produce) back, so that's why I borrowed money from people to buy stuff."

After putting all of his money into staying at the Cannery, Dexter said he lost it all, which also affected holiday shopping for his daughter.

"Since she was a baby, she always had something to open," Thompson said. "But this year I couldn't buy anything because of the setback from the Cannery.

Franklin said the biggest goal for the Cannery is to bring in more people.

"It's also up to (the businesses) to help drive the traffic through their own social media, through their own engagement platforms that they have," Franklin said.

Dexter said he's not giving up and joined a program to recover his business but still is urging the community for support.

You can reach his business phone number at (920) 780-8062.