HIGHLAND | Opening his third Culver’s franchise in Highland is both the continuation and a highpoint of Fred Terpstra’s 40-year business career.
The 4,200-square-feet, 98-seat fast-food restaurant on the southwest corner of Ridge Road and Cline Avenue opens for business at 10 a.m. Monday and joins Terpstra’s Culver’s Frozen Custard and Butterburgers stores in Merrillville and Lansing.
“It’s everything I hoped it would be,” Terpstra said. “I like the fast-food business and that we take care of 3,000 to 4,000 customers a week. It’s in my blood and will always be there.”
The stores are co-owned by his son-in-law, Mike Wondaal, and all employ the talents of the Terpstra family. Fred Terpstra’s son, John Terpstra, is an attorney with the Schererville law firm of Hinshaw & Culbertson LLC and does the franchises’ legal work. Daughter Shaina Rudolph does all of the accounting, while another daughter, Nicole Wondaal, who has a master’s degree in guidance counseling, helps in all three stores.
“If you can’t have your family involved in your business, what kind of father would you be,” Terpstra said. “After I’m gone, this will be great for my kids and 12 grandkids.”
Terpstra and Wondaal tore down a gas station to build the new Culver’s, which will be staffed by 60 employees and open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Terpstra’s business experience dates to the 1970s when he owned Highland Department Store with his father, John, and their partner, Peter Groot. The Terpstras sold the business in 1992 with Fred then going into several businesses including car washes and quick oil change stores, and eventually portable toilet leasing through Terpstra Sanitation.
In 2006, Terpstra sold everything and became a Culver’s franchisee.
"I liked the concept," he said. "It’s a family company with a very wholesome environment: nonsmoking, nonalcohol, and has a lot of the same values as Highland Department Store. It’s good fit for me.”
Terpstra opened the Lansing location in 2006 and the Merrillville store a year later.
The family-owned Wisconsin-based company has an individual franchise fee of $55,000 for acquisition of a Culver's franchise, according to its website. Plus, potential franchisees need to have a minimum of $350,000 in liquid assets to qualify to own each Culver’s franchise. The chain currently has 450 franchises in 19 states.
“My stores have done well,” Terpstra said. “When Culver’s does national TV advertising it increases sales, but business is pretty good year in and year out. Culver’s sets itself apart from other fast food stores by its hospitality, friendliness, cleanliness and the quality of food that’s all served in a timely manner."
Although there are many variables, including food and labor costs, that determine the success of a quick-service restaurant, Terpstra said he’s never been sorry he’s taken on the challenge.
“There’s a huge amount of business that you have to keep on eye and try to control,” he said. “It’s most difficult business I’ve had since I’ve been in business and I’ve been in business 40 years as of May 17. But it’s very rewarding. Culver’s is like family. Every guest that leaves Culver’s, leaves happy.”