Downtown London - News

February 2019

  • Shoeless Joe’s focused on ‘big city feel’ at new downtown location

    February 4, 2019

    Shoeless Joe’s focused on ‘big city feel’ at new downtown location


    By Sean Meyer


    Chris MacGregor and Valentino “Val” De Franco may not be from London, but neither of them were strangers to the Forest City, so when the Shoeless Joe’s restaurant was offering up new franchises, they knew just where to go.


    The two men, who originally hail from the Toronto area, came to London to launch Shoeless Joe’s Sports Grill at 89 King St.


    That location choice was far from coincidental and is perhaps the main reason Chris said he and Val decided London was the right opportunity for them.


    “The choice of location . . . that was part of Shoeless Joe’s development. It’s where they had their minds focused on,” Chris said. “Obviously, being right across from the arena [Budweiser Gardens], the entertainment district downtown, and we’re something that isn’t open here right now. And then there is London being such a great sports town. But that arena right across the street was the big draw.”


    Renovations started on the new franchise in June 2018 and are expected to be complete in time for an opening in February.


    Chris said he sees London as “a huge opportunity,” which makes sense both professionally and personally. After all, his daughter is currently in her fifth year at Western University, meaning he has made numerous visits, something he also did years ago when he would oversee certain restaurant franchises in the London area.


    While Chris has a personal connection to Western through his daughter, Val’s was much more direct as he attended the university himself back in the 1990s.


    Those memories of what London has to offer played a role in convincing Val this was the right time to return and open a business.


    “I’m new to the restaurant business. I like food and I like sports. I was in the investment industry, always in a professional office environment. At some point, you want some adventure, something completely different,” he said. “Owning a business has always been at the back of my mind. I got laid off in late 2016. I had some savings and I decided now was as good a time as any to try something adventurous.” 


    While Val is new to the restaurant business, Chris knows it all too well.


    Before working on the corporate side of the restaurant business, Chris owned his own independent restaurant for 16 years. He would later go on to work for Shoeless Joe’s on the corporate side, along with other national brands in Canada, before deciding he wanted to get back into business, “controlling my own destiny,” as he puts it.


    With that in mind, Chris said he couldn’t be more excited for the experience he and Val are soon to bring to downtown London.


    Chris describes the experience as offering “a big city feel,” one that will be heavily focused on the sports bar aspect of the restaurant. Nothing will reflect that more than the restaurant’s focal point, a 20-foot TV, which will be surrounded by nearly 30 additional TVs throughout the bar, including in each second floor booth.


    Along with seating for 270, plus an outdoor patio for 70, Chris said the restaurant will welcome everyone from individuals and families to local sports teams and community and business groups.


    “We’re going to be open late,” Chris said. “After maybe the London Knights have played or that concert has let out, they can come over for some drinks and great food. We’re going to be that place that is open for them. I want people to walk out exhausted because they had such a great time.”


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