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19: Mentored by Dave Thomas as a young Wendy’s franchisee with Jim Rudolph

Stories from Franchisees & Founders.  

Jim is distinguished franchise industry veteran, but didn’t take the ordinary path to success. He explains that he was a bad student who graduated high school with a “D” average and couldn’t get accepted to college. He eventually was accepted into a college in Missouri, of which, he was kicked out of three times due to poor grades. After the third time, he returned home to Pittsburgh and tried to get into Point Park University. He was eventually accepted in the school and lasted a semester there and then went off to Israel when he was 20 years old.

Once in Israel, this is where Rudolph’s entrepreneurial adventures began. In 1971, he opened the first American pizza place in Israel. In just 2 1/2 years, he and two others had over eight stores open in the country. In 1973, Rudolph returned to Pittsburgh where his father and brother were in the bowling business. Within a year’s time, he and some family members bought into the Wendy’s franchise and by the year 1995, had grown to 47 restaurants.  He received the Wendy’s Award and R. David Thomas Award and Jim was inducted into the Wendy’s Hall of Fame. Along with Wendy’s, him and his family were also involved in the purchase of six Chuck E. Cheese locations, six Church’s Fried Chicken stores, Baskin Robbins, four bowling centers and they got into the real estate and construction business. From 2005 to 2011, Rudolph and his family ran the Rita’s Italian Ice franchise and in six short years, took the chain from 310 to 550 stores