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Pudgie's Naked coming to LI as chicken chain rebrands

A new logo for Pudgie's Naked Chicken Co.

A new logo for Pudgie's Naked Chicken Co. and an image of the chain's signature skinless fried chicken. Credit: Pudgie's Naked Chicken Co.

The company that owns the once-popular Long Island-born Pudgie's brand hopes to revive the fried chicken business with a new name and an expanded menu.

TruFoods LLC plans to open a Pudgie's Naked Chicken in Massapequa this summer, a spokesman said Tuesday.

The predecessor brand was Pudgie's Famous Chicken, which in 1998 had 40 locations, records show. Four Pudgie's Famous franchise locations still operate on Long Island, a TruFoods spokesman said. The company will offer those operators the opportunity to join the new franchise network, he said.

Pudgie's Famous is known for its signature skinless fried chicken. Pudgie's Naked plans to keep that on the menu and add new offerings such as rice bowls, sweet potato tots and zucchini chips.

The corporate-owned Massapequa location plans to employ about 15 people. And TruFoods hopes to open 50 to 75 locations in the tristate area. It is already marketing franchises.

In 1998, records show, the assets of the Pudgie's Chicken Inc. franchise chain were purchased at a bankruptcy court auction by buyout specialist Jeffrey Bernstein for less than $1 million. The chain was losing $4 million to $5 million a year. Pudgie's ran into fiscal trouble, in part, because of an overexpansion in the 1990s, coupled with overspending when it was a public company.

Bernstein later merged Pudgie's with Arthur Treacher's. He formed a new company, Lake Success-based TruFoods Corp., to oversee the management of those two chains and Wall Street Deli. TruFoods LLC, based in Manhattan, bought the Pudgie's brand in 2007. It is not related to TruFoods Corp., the spokesman said. TruFoods LLC now operates those other franchise brands as well.

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