Wednesday, February 1, 2023

The Tender Truth About Abner's

Abner's Famous Chicken Tenders Founder Abner White.
Abner’s Famous Chicken Tenders Founder Abner White.

Fans of Abner’s Famous Chicken Tenders have been abuzz with recent reports of a March 28 bankruptcy filing. However, Founder Abner White says the scope of the filing is very limited and warrants clarification.
The notion that the Abner’s “chain” has gone bankrupt is untrue, White notes.
Five different companies own six Abner’s locations. One of those companies, Abner’s, Inc., owns the original Abner’s location at the corner of University and South Lamar and another on West Jackson in Oxford.
“The name Abner’s, Inc., sounds all-encompassing, but it’s named that just because that was the first restaurant I opened,” he says. Subsequent stores were opened by new, distinct corporate entities. One of those stores, in Madison, closed in 2007 and still has outstanding debt with a bank. The original Oxford restaurant, owned by Abner’s, Inc., was pledged as collateral for that debt. According to White, offers he and associates have made to the bank to create a monthly installment plan to pay off the debt have been rejected. A reorganization under Chapter 11, he says, was the only way to protect the original Abner’s property from being taken by the bank to account for the Madison debt.
Mississippi stores in Starkville, Tupelo, and Brandon and another in Cordova, Tennessee, are each owned by separate entities and are not involved in the bankruptcy, White says.
“Abner’s, Inc. filed Chapter 11,” White reiterates. “Abners of Starkville, Inc.; Abner’s of Tupelo, LLC; Abner’s of Cordova, LLC; and Abners of Brandon, LLC; all did not file any type of bankruptcy. Abner’s, Inc. sounds like it is all stores, but it is only Oxford.”
Abner’s, Inc.,’s filing in the Northern District of Mississippi Bankruptcy Court claims assets and liabilities ranging from $1 to $10 million for that particular entity. Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows a company to reorganize— as opposed to liquidating the business under a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing. One goal for the debtor in Chapter 11 is to protect assets while resolving debts.
Abner’s Famous Chicken Tenders celebrated its 20th anniversary last year.
“I opened the first Abner’s at Four Corners in Oxford, January 1993,” Founder Abner White said in 2013. “I had five tables, a $100 cash register, two small fryers, a griddle for bread, and a fountain machine . . . and that was it. … “When asked what I was opening, most people were confused. I’d have to repeat myself. Then, they’d smirk and say ‘Good luck with that.’”
During the second week of business, lines were forming outside the tiny restaurant. After two expansions and renovations, White opened a store in Starkville. A Tupelo store, and a Jackson Avenue location in Oxford, followed. Later, Brandon; Cordova, Tennessee; and Madison became homes to Abner’s restaurants.
— Tad Wilkes, tad.wilkes@hottytoddy.com

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