With opening day less than a week away, a Manitou Springs couple may already have a smash on their hands as franchisees for one of the fastest-growing burger chains in the U.S.

Lucas and Allyson Farnham will open their first Smashburger restaurant on Wednesday in the Marketplace at Austin Bluffs, with plans to open two more in the Colorado Springs area in the next two years.

The fast-growing Denver-based chain came to Colorado Springs in 2009 with two company owned-locations - one in the University Village Colorado shopping center at 5320 N. Nevada Ave., and the other along the Powers Boulevard corridor at 3707 Bloomington St., amid a wave of expansions by several upscale burger chains, including Five Guys Burgers, Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers and Larkburger.

The Farnhams owners of a Smashburger franchise called Better Burger Builders, signed the franchise agreement with the chain in May, two years after acquiring a Black Bear Diner franchise for the Colorado Springs area with a single location at the Citadel Crossing Shopping Center, 975 N. Academy Blvd.

The couple, both Colorado College graduates, previously worked for Black Bear Diner in the Portland, Ore., area, where he was a district manager and she was a bookkeeper and accountant. But they didn't want to stay there.

"We always wanted to come back to this area," Lucas Farnham said.

Although they stuck with Black Bear, they needed other opportunities.

"The Black Bear concept has been successful here, but we wanted diversification with two different concepts, and new locations have been hard to come by for Black Bear and not for Smashburger, which is a very hot concept right now," he said.

The couple began negotiating the franchise in January. Theirs will be the fastest franchised location to open, as measured by the time between signing the agreement and opening the restaurant, Lucas Farnham said.

They plan to open locations north of the North Academy Boulevard interchange with Interstate 25 and in or near the Broadmoor Towne Center south of the downtown area. The location opening next week at 3604 Austin Bluffs Parkway, Suite 140, will employ 35 and is one of nine restaurants Smashburger will open next month, he said.

Smashburger ranked 1,562th on the recently released Inc. list of the 5,000 Fastest-Growing Companies, with revenues that jumped from $21 million in 2009 to $74.3 million in 2012 - a growth rate of 254 percent.

Smashburger announced agreements last month with the Farnhams and four other franchise owners to open 19 restaurants in California, Colorado, Florida, South Carolina and Utah as part of a plan to more than double the size of the chain to 500 locations during the next few years. The 6-year-old company completed a $35 million round of financing in June with New York-based Golub Capital to fuel its growth plans, which include up to 60 locations this year and a similar number next year.


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