“Research and development,” David calls it. “We had to drink a few beers and eat a whole bunch of wings to figure out if we liked the concept.”
After graduating, the three hadn’t decided exactly what they wanted to do with their lives. John had a degree in history, Eric’s was in elementary education, and David was taking classes at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, working at a law firm downtown. It so happened that one of the firm’s clients was BW3. It also so happened that John and Eric saw a notice in the back of a BW3 menu that read “Now Franchising.” The planets were aligning.
“It was probably one of the scariest days of our lives when we picked up the phone, called our parents and told them, ‘Hey, we think we want to go into the restaurant business,’” David says.
“The restaurant business, after all, is very risky—very tough. But we were blessed. Our parents supported us. So we put on our best suits and went to a meeting with the BW3 people. As we walked into the front office, they said, ‘Boys, this is the restaurant business—you don’t need to wear suits.’ So we said, ‘Where do we sign?’”
ThreeWitt Enterprises, as they called it, opened its first restaurant near the University of Dayton campus on July 15, 1994.
Six years into it, the partners realized that, while they had the entrepreneurial knack they needed, the three of them—put together—would have trouble filling a thimble with their professional management skills. They called on Brad Haber, then senior director of operations for their parent company, Buffalo Wild Wings International. Brad had been working with the trio as a mentor, and he liked the way they did things. In 2000, Brad came on as chief operating officer—and he turned out to be as much of a fit as if he’d known the other three since their dormitory days.
At that point, the Dayton-based ThreeWitt owned four restaurants. Brad brought with him systems, routines, methods for evaluating, and the ability to look at the big picture from different angles. All that played a role in bringing their company to Aileron.