Cork & Olive’s Probst Abandons Franchisees

Cork & Olive Wine Shop Franchise Owners Left High & Dry Michael Probst, franchisor of the Cork & Olive wine shop franchise chain, has shuttered his eight company stores, closed the corporate headquarters and laid off 40 employees.

The nine Cork & Olive franchise owners had an emergency meeting this past Wednesday to figure out how they can survive the demise of their cash-strapped franchisor. The Orlando franchise owner has only been open for a week; other owners in Florida were preparing to open their stores when they got the news.

According to an article in the St. Petersburg Times:

Cork & Olive president Michael Probst said he had been working on the assumption a New York hedge fund was going to invest about $3-million in the company. On Friday, however, the group insisted it take on controlling interest as a condition. Probst balked. On Monday he shut down corporate operations including the headquarters on Race Track Road and company-owned stores in Brandon, Countryside Mall, Largo, Oldsmar, St. Petersburg, Wesley Chapel and South Tampa.

“It’s unfortunate,” Probst said. “We are still trying to get financing, but my conscience would not let me have our people continue working when we were short of money and could not support our franchises.”

Probst started the company in 2004 based on the idea of using wine tastings in a comfortable setting to sell moderately priced wine by the bottle, along with olive oil and spices. Most of the offerings are European, Californian and Australian labels that are thinly distributed in the United States. Cork & Olive, which had a plan for 20 stores soon, started selling franchises in 2006.

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69 thoughts on “Cork & Olive’s Probst Abandons Franchisees

  • June 20, 2008 at 8:18 pm
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    Consider it done. Thanks for the info. Also the FTC has been up dated.

  • June 20, 2008 at 9:25 pm
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    Detail by Entity Name
    Florida Profit Corporation
    SANDERS TRADING & CONSULTING CORPORATION
    Filing Information
    Document Number P03000048827
    FEI Number 320085991
    Date Filed 05/02/2003
    State FL
    Status ACTIVE

    Principal Address
    4025 TAMPA RD
    STE 1117
    OLDSMAR FL 34677
    Changed 06/29/2005
    Mailing Address
    4025 TAMPA RD
    STE 1117
    OLDSMAR FL 34677
    Changed 06/29/2005
    Registered Agent Name & Address
    STULL, R. JEFFREY
    602 SOUTH BLVD.
    TAMPA FL 33606
    Officer/Director Detail
    Name & Address
    Title D
    APPOLD, RAINER
    602 SOUTH BLVD.
    TAMPA FL 33606
    Annual Reports
    Report Year Filed Date
    2006 04/03/2006
    2007 06/04/2007
    2008 04/24/2008

    Detail by Entity Name
    Florida Profit Corporation
    VINOCEAN CORPORATION
    Filing Information
    Document Number P05000051893
    FEI Number 202647741
    Date Filed 04/06/2005
    State FL
    Status ACTIVE
    Last Event NAME CHANGE AMENDMENT
    Event Date Filed 08/20/2007
    Event Effective Date NONE

    Principal Address
    4025 TAMPA RD.
    SUITE 1117
    OLDSMAR FL 34677
    Changed 11/09/2005
    Mailing Address
    4025 TAMPA RD.
    SUITE 1117
    OLDSMAR FL 34677
    Changed 11/09/2005
    Registered Agent Name & Address
    STULL, R. JEFFREY
    R. JEFFREY STULL, P.A.
    602 SOUTH BLVD
    TAMPA FL 33606 US
    Officer/Director Detail
    Name & Address
    Title VP
    MILAM, JAMES
    6306 SOUTH MACDILL AVENUE #1429
    TAMPA FL 33611 US
    Annual Reports
    Report Year Filed Date
    2007 03/15/2007
    2008 04/24/2008
    2008 06/12/2008

  • June 20, 2008 at 9:48 pm
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    Probst Attorney Stull is Appold’s attorney too. Also both at the same address. World Wineries pres. and CEO- Appold.
    The website says future home. But Probst had wine from that company. Yet other consumers can’t purchase. Come on it was Probst wine.

  • June 21, 2008 at 10:07 am
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    for your viewing pleasure seems vinocean and deborah are one of the same. ahhh one big happy family. as you can see from the website it is listed as the same compnay.

    https://www.myfloridalicense.com/LicenseDetail.asp?SID=&id=F609107AF6B194781E6E6B05C23DB969

    Name: MILAM, JAMES CRAYTON (Primary Name)
    (DBA Name)
    Main Address: UNIVERSAL WINE CORPORATION
    6309 S. MAC DILL AVENUE, #1429
    TAMPA Florida 33611
    County: HILLSBOROUGH
    License Mailing:

    LicenseLocation:

    License Information
    License Type: Salesperson Wine & Spirits
    Rank: LQS
    License Number: LQS9960
    Status: Current
    Licensure Date: 12/12/2005
    Expires:

    Special Qualifications Qualification Effective

    AUGENTI, DEBORAH KAREN (Primary Name)
    (DBA Name)
    Main Address: UNIVERSAL WINE CORPORATION
    4025 TAMPA RD STE 1117
    OLDSMAR Florida 34677
    County: PINELLAS

    License Mailing:

    LicenseLocation:

    License Information
    License Type: Salesperson Wine & Spirits
    Rank: LQS
    License Number: LQS10150
    Status: Current
    Licensure Date: 03/14/2006
    Expires:

    Special Qualifications Qualification Effective

    View Related License Information
    View License Complaint

  • June 21, 2008 at 8:25 pm
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    What are people’s opinions of Rainer Appold? I’m told that he and a few others are putting up money to revive Cork and Olive without any involvement of Michael Probst.

    Does anyone know if it’s true that Appold and Probst are not getting along these days?

    Can a Cork and Olive led by Rainer Appold succeed?

    I’m told that most of the current franchisees are on board with this, except for the stores owned by Rick Munroe. Does anyone know if this is true/not true?

  • June 21, 2008 at 9:32 pm
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    Not all of the other franchisees are on board with this. Several would not touch Rainer with a ten foot pole. Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me.

  • June 22, 2008 at 11:24 pm
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    The problem with reality is that it tends to bite you in the ass and expose you.

    In this case, a divide conquer strategy would in no way help the brand going forward. I’m quite certain the 9 existing franchisees firmly understand this. It will take a sound business plan that would be scrutinized beyond belief to sway the nucleus of group. Without al 9 units going along with a reorganization effort, it would be foolish to proceed and most likely would not happen.

    We can’t speak for the Appold team. They may feel otherwise.

    We know this;
    The initial EWG investors have a specific period of time to build and present a business plan to the creditors or the company and its assets will be liquidated. These investors and their lawyers will do their best to recoup as much as their investment as possible while spending as little as possible to accomplish this.

    As we’ve all learned you can say anything in this country. Backing it up with a sound business model and people willing to lend capital to your plan are another thing altogether. Cork & Olive could sell franchises because they had no recorded history. We’re way past that at this point.

    The team that will champion this brand going forward will have to be be squeaky clean and present a win-win model for its franchise investors.

  • June 23, 2008 at 5:21 pm
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    Has anyone thought that when things starts getting a little rougher that Mr. Probst might decide to leave the country? and then he might be home free without any obligations whatsoever??? Does anyone know of a way to make sure that he cannot leave? Do the airlines needs to be alerted or whom ever can be contacted so this cannot happen??? ANY IDEAS??? We cannot allow him to just pick up and leave!

  • June 25, 2008 at 12:55 pm
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    Just curious, were the individual stores profitable? And if so how profitable. There has to be value on the assets, trademarks etc. If there is a viable business underneath this trainwreck then the individual franchisees need to band together and move this forward.

  • June 26, 2008 at 3:18 pm
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    Great News, people are starting to listen….. “Super German” and his side kicks, “Plasto Woman” and “Raisin” had better start coming up with a plan to leave soon.

  • June 27, 2008 at 5:46 pm
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    From the books I saw, yes the stores made money, especially when Probst advertised. Oct. thru Dec. the stores did great. Although the books might have been the second copy.

  • June 29, 2008 at 11:52 am
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    Does anyone know if the closed corp. stores has air conditioning? The reason I asked is if the wine is still in the stores it must be cooked by now. Did anyone liquidate the stock? Did Rainer remove the wine from the stores? Are the franchisees entitled to the wine?
    Just wondering…

  • June 29, 2008 at 6:33 pm
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    for some odd reason… the last posting from WANDA doesn’t seem to be questions WANDA would ask-or her writing style, why do I think it could possible be Ms. nelson inquiring from CA or is it Mexico by now? hmm.

  • July 2, 2008 at 11:30 am
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    The Cork and Olive website is gone, shouldn’t the franchisees get to use it?

  • September 19, 2008 at 3:31 am
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    As a former store-level employee, I have a hard time feeling bad for the franchisees. Sure, you were ripped off in the worst of ways, but I’d have to say that the responsibility for not spotting a fraud falls on you. Working in the store, I knew things weren’t kosher from the very beginning when I noticed that our official store play list included original Beatles recordings. Nobody can afford the licensing for that, not even major motion pictures like ‘I Am Sam.’

    Our markup was astronomical, completely unprecedented, and basically unfounded. Our pricing was entirely random, based solely upon Stephanie’s opinions of what people would pay. Stephanie, a woman with literally no knowledge of wine, has no business guessing such things. The average cost to the company was $3 – $4 per bottle. We sold some bottles for $9, most for about $15, and some for $30 or more. This was absolutely inexplicable. There was no standard percentage for the markup, just whatever we thought we could get.

    How one $3 bottle of wine seems worth $32 while another is worth only $8 is beyond me, but it should have raised serious concerns among people considering the $300,000 price tag for one of these stores. With a little research, you would have found that the average wine shop shoots for around a 33% profit margin per bottle while we were aiming for 70% or more on AVERAGE!

    This might have seemed like a really great way to make a lot of money, but if you weren’t buying a business you knew nothing about, you would have realized that it actually equates to selling a low quality product at the price point of a high quality product. In other words, you’re hoping to prey on the average consumer’s lack of knowledge about the difference between cheap wine and fine wine. You made them feel like they were purchasing a quality product by showing them a pretty store with a neat layout and free samples, but now you’re mad that Michael and his goons swindled you with a similar set of smoke and mirrors. Excuse me if I’m not overwhelmed with sympathy, but it seems an awful lot like karma to me.

    I know nothing about cars, so I’m not going to go into business as a mechanic. I don’t understand the stock market, so I’m not going to set up shop as a financial advisor. Wine novices have no business running wine shops, and if they choose to do so, they shouldn’t be mad when things go poorly.

  • Pingback: CORK & OLIVE: Ex-Employee Has no Sympathy for Franchisees | Unhappy Franchisee

  • November 1, 2008 at 12:53 pm
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    Michael Probst had zero knowledge about wine and olive oil. For him wine or water was the same, only the dollars had an interest. I’ve been initially a supplier then when I saw that tongue talks but money …walk away I said goodbye.
    Stephanie was able only to answer at the phone (initially) and professional for other things…..
    They deserve the good wine and olive oil at a fair price, because the concept is still good. Infact : it’s not necessary to be named (paying lot of money for being named) by Wine Spectators and similar magazines. They are using always same international producers able to buy pages for advertisment having back reports and high score for their wines. While in the word, not only in Italy smaller producers are doing wonderfull and inexpensive wines that everybody come to Europe can try and buy at price between $4 to $10, taxes encluded.

  • Pingback: CORK & OLIVE: Michael Probst Launches Exciting New Venture

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