A group of friends united to purchase Milio's Sandwiches, headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin, with locations in Minnesota and Iowa.
The new ownership group includes Brian Bergen, Timm Heller, Todd Mancusi, Tony Mancusi, and Chris Gentilli. The group has long-standing ties to Milio's.
Gentilli has the distinction of being Milio’s first franchise owner in 2004. In 2008, Bergen's wife, Carol, franchised the Milio's Sandwiches on East Johnson Street in Madison along with Heller. Heller and long-time friends Todd and Tony Mancusi have been in the food industry for over 20 years while working with another franchise group. The team shares a deep affection for the Milio's brand and the local communities they serve.
"Milio's has a great product, a fanatical following from our loyal customers, and one of the best groups of employees around," says Bergen. "We couldn't think of a good reason why we shouldn't buy the company, even with the pandemic. We know Milio's. We care about Milio's – the people, the customers, and our communities. It was an easy decision."
Homegrown & Handcrafted
Madison has always been home for Bergen, Heller, and the Mancusi's. All four are Madison West High School alums and have strong roots in the community, from coaching high school football to supporting local little league teams and high school athletic programs.
"We are honored to continue to cultivate relationships in the community and look forward to an exciting future," says Heller. "I believe we have the right partners in place with the right vision and industry experience to make a positive difference for our employees and franchises."
"Milio's has a rich history and strong foundation," says Bergen. "We're known for great customer service, high-quality ingredients, and our signature bread baked fresh every four hours, every day, in every store. We will stay true to our roots while looking for ways to improve and grow."
Milio's is also a homegrown Madison staple. Originally called Big Mike's Super Subs, it was started in 1989 as a sandwich shop on West Johnson Street, giving University of Wisconsin–Madison students another option for high-quality food. Demand for Milio's grew, and expansion began around Madison. In 2004, the company began franchising and changed its name to Milio's Sandwiches. Today, more than two hundred employees work at twenty-one franchise and company locations across Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa.
Passion for Milio's runs deep. Brand loyalty extends beyond just fans and the ownership group. All of the franchise owners have been with Milio's for more than ten years. Half of the general managers have been with the company for over ten years as well; even a few are nearing their twentieth anniversary.
You can count the company's new president among those long-time fans. Gerard Helminski first started working as a food vendor at the very beginning in 1989. He officially joined the company in 2000 as an area supervisor and has held a variety of leadership roles ever since. Helminski says the ownership group and Milio's are poised to do great things.
"It says a lot about a company's reputation when people who know the brand and its operations so personally come together to buy the company," says Helminski. "I am honored and humbled to be a part of this exciting new chapter. Together, with our staff and franchise owners, we have a strong commitment to improve our stores continually, offer an exceptional experience to our guests, and be here for another thirty-two years and then some."
What Can Milio's Fans Expect in 2021?
When the team looks back at the end of this year, they will know they were successful if customers – old and new – continue to favor the local brand over larger, national options.
While existing fan-favorites will remain on the menu, there will be new offers and promotions in 2021. Additionally, technology upgrades will make it that much easier for sandwich-seekers and cookie-lovers to curb their appetite.
"On the horizon are an enhanced mobile app experience and a new loyalty program to reward our biggest fans," says Helminski. "We are also forging new partnerships with our local communities and neighborhoods."
Neighbors Helping Neighbors
The team believes that relationships are a two-way street – shopping local should mean your dollars also support local community efforts.
"We all need to lean on each other while we continue to work hard to survive the ongoing pandemic," adds Bergen. "We will make it through this together by supporting locally-owned shops – if not Milio's, then another local business."
Neighbors helping neighbors – those are more than just words to the ownership group. They love Madison and are 'adopting' each of Milio's communities as their home away from home by supporting important local projects.
"While we've often got sandwiches on the brain, we also spend plenty of time thinking about our role in our local community and how we can be a strong force for good," says Bergen. "Since day one, we've been dedicated to giving back a variety of organizations and nonprofits. Our bread might be our claim to fame – but our real mission is to serve and support the local communities that we're lucky to call home."
Milio's has partnered with several local organizations in the past, including Project Home, Boys & Girls Clubs, Special Olympics, UW Carbone Cancer Center, and various education initiatives, just to name a few. The new ownership group looks forward to expanding the company's support in the years to come.