Goldfingers Marketplace and Ministry

Author: Jimmy Sailors         THE DOTHAN EAGLE        3/2/2011

Goldfingers owner Bill Dorminy poses for a photo inside of the Goldfingers restaurant at Cottonwood Corners on Wednesday morning. Jay Hare / Dothan Eagle

Goldfingers owner Bill Dorminy poses for a photo inside of the Goldfingers restaurant at Cottonwood Corners on Wednesday morning. Jay Hare / Dothan Eagle

Bill Dorminy has a corporate background in restaurants, but his other passion is the ministry.

He’s combining both at Goldfingers, a restaurant chain he launched in Dothan in January 2008.

In about three years, he has gone from one location to three. The buzz behind his success, which stems in part from his years working with Chick-fil-A as an owner/operator and later at the company headquarters in Atlanta, has prompted inquiries about franchises.

“We’re moving in that direction,” Dorminy said, “to make it where we’ll be franchising by the end of the year.”

The owner of the three locations in Dothan worked with Chick-fil-A starting in 1990, when he opened his first Chick-fil-A in Jacksonville, Fla. He opened two more locations in Jacksonville, and began training new operators for the company.

Then he was invited to be on staff in Atlanta as a marketing consultant. The job put him on the road most of the time, in charge of developing the Chick-fil-A brand in markets like Houston, Orlando and Tampa.

When the company decided to open a freestanding store in Dothan, where his wife was from, it left the store at Wiregrass Commons Mall available. Dorminy said he always liked Dothan, his wife’s parents were in failing health, and he and his wife were the only ones in a position to move here and help.

Dorminy said he went to Truett Cathy, the founder of the company, and asked about the mall store. He said Truett told him “Bill, whenever you make a decision based on family, you’re making the right decision.”

“So we took the jump, from the corporate office in Atlanta back to being an operator here in Dothan,” Dorminy said.

For the next couple of years, the mall store struggled, and Dorminy asked Cathy to open another freestanding store in Dothan he could operate.

Cathy wouldn’t open another store in Dothan, but offered Dorminy the choice of a new store in Montgomery, going back to Jacksonville or to the corporate office in Atlanta.

At that time Dorminy met with Ralph Sigler, pastor of Harvest Church, which at that time was meeting at Honeysuckle Middle School. Sigler asked him if he had thought about joining the church’s staff, and Dorminy did, as church administrator, in 2001.

Dorminy said he spent the next five years, when the church went from 200 members to about 1,200 and built its current building, as associate pastor, pastor of small groups and church administrator.

Then someone told him about the Willy T’s location on Montgomery Highway being for sale. At that time, he had an inkling to get back into business.

“I’ve always felt like, with Chik-Fil-A, that most of the ministry happens in the marketplace,” Dorminy said. “I feel like this is the place that I’m called to do ministry. I’ve had several young people that have come through here, their lives have been changed because of the culture that’s been here.”

He bought the Willy T’s location and after about a year realized there was going to be a cap on that branding. He met with the company’s owners and bought out of the contract.

At the time, he was incubating ideas for a new restaurant. About the same time Cathy had opened Upscale Pizza in Atlanta, and its themed location gave Dorminy ideas for his own store based on classic food and classic memorabilia.

“So right then and there I started collecting things, putting them in my garage,” he said. “And my wife said ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘well, I’ve got this idea of what this Goldfingers thing is going to look like.’”

He launched Goldfingers at the 231 location on Jan. 1, 2008. He had a new sauce and new entrees, including wraps, pizza and sandwiches, “kind of just forged our own identity.”

In April 2010, he opened the location on U.S. 84 near Brannon Stand Road, and that became the restaurant’s new design. Joy Wells, a good friend of Dorminy’s, was his designer. Her husband, Mark Wells, has a cabinet shop and they did all the woodworking.

About that time the developers of Cottonwood Corners shopping center wanted Goldfingers as one of its anchors. Dorminy said the timing was bad because he had just opened the second location, but the developers offered financial incentives to get him to agree.

“They believed in me that much,” Dorminy said. “They said, ‘We’ve seen your concept. We’re willing to put that out there if you will come.’”

The only blip in the chain’s growth has been the store in Enterprise, which closed last month. Dorminy said the man in Enterprise who used to own Willy Ts asked him about franchising, but he decided to make the man a licensee instead. The restaurant stayed open for about two years, then the building was sold and the lease was not renewed.

Dorminy said he has learned more from his mistakes than his successes. When he does franchise, he plans to put locations in strip malls first.

“The capital you need isn’t as much,” Dorminy said. That way, operators don’t tie up a lot of money in real estate.

He said with freestanding buildings, payments are about $8,000 a month. At strip malls, the cost to lease is about $3,500 a month. “For an operator, that’s a big difference between him making a good living or not.”

Dorminy said his goal is to have a good influence on the community. “Even like our wallpaper, you see it says ‘Good friends, great food,’ you look behind that and what you see is ‘God First.’”

“If the primary goal is just making money, that’s a bad platform on which to launch a business,” Dorminy said. “But if it’s to impact people’s lives, impact your employees, and impact your city, then that’s something that I really believe.”