Bill Johnson's Big Apple, the legendary Valley restaurant chain with five locations, is in trouble. Big, bankruptcy trouble.
In August 2011, Bill Johnson's, in business for 55 years, filed to reorganize in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding. Prior to the hearing in January, CEO Sherry Cameron, granddaughter of the late founder, cowboy actor, stuntman, and shock-jock radio personality Bill Johnson (who used to broadcast his show at the original restaurant on 3757 East Van Buren Street) and who took over the family business in 2009, sent a letter asking fans for their support.
But some members of her family, it seemed, had different ideas.
"Some of my relatives have petitioned the U.S. Bankruptcy Judge who's hearing our case to convert it to Chapter 7 (that's liquidation). This is a petulant and self-destructive move, one that will eliminate hundreds of jobs, and it shows you the sort of destructive nonsense I've been dealing with.
"I can't forget that are real people and real families who depend on those jobs. We're talking about a devastating blow to hundreds of people, many of them folks who have been with my family for decades. It's simply unthinkable to me a court would act on this motion and shut down five going concerns and throw that many people out of work in this economy. And that's not to mention the hurt to their families, our suppliers, our loyal customers, and on and on."
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On February 1, Cameron announced via her Facebook page that Bill Johnson's had successfully made it through the bankruptcy and that, "We're going to go back to work and focus on our customers, our employees --"
And joining Cameron's fight to get the business back on its feet, at noon today, Local First Arizona, the nonprofit organization representing a coalition of locally owned businesses, has organized a "cashmob" at the Van Buren location, urging the community to come out and spend their dollars in an effort to get Bill's back on its feet.
Will ongoing efforts from Cameron and the community be enough to keep the legendary restaurant chain alive? Time will tell.