- By Levi Rickert
LAS VEGAS — Actor Mark Wahlberg and his brother, chef Paul Wahlberg took center stage the National Indian Gaming Association's Indian Gaming Tradeshow and Convention in Las Vegas on Wednesday, July 21, to announce a newly formed partnership between their company, Wahlburgers Franchising and Little River Holdings, LLC, a wholly owned enterprise of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, based in Manistee, Mich.
The announcement came in the Chairman's Lounge at the tradeshow where hundreds of people gathered around to get a glimpse of the celebrity Wahlberg brothers.
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The agreement allows Little River Holdings to develop Wahlburgers restaurants on Indian casinos and resorts or non-gaming business locations. The goal is to develop 125 Wahlburgers restaurants within the next few years throughout Indian Country.
The Wahlberg brothers were introduced on stage by National Indian Gaming Association’s Chairman Ernest Stevens, Jr., along with officials from Little River Holdings, Frank Lewis, chairman; Eugene Magnuson, general manager; and Ron Spoerl, board member.
Wahlburgers restaurants were started by Mark, Paul and Donnie Wahlberg using recipes inspired from meals that the family became accustomed to as they were growing up with humble means in a family of nine siblings in Boston.
Mark Wahlberg, who was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as a police officer in “The Departed” in 2006, has appeared in over 50 films. His celebrity made him a hit at the Indian Gaming Tradeshow.
“We are honored to be partnering with Little River Holdings. We look forward to sharing our family experience with you. We look forward to creating fun family experiences with you and your families and I love how family-oriented Indian Country is,” Mark Wahlberg said.
“We started this business with my brother Paul and Donnie, who is not here today and our mom, who recently passed. We want to continue to honor her. For her it was always about us getting along and supporting one another. It is an honor to share our family experience with your family," Mark Wahlberg continued.
Chef Paul Wahlberg, who has been cooking since he was a child, says he loves the idea of having Wahlburgers restaurants in Indian Country.
“We are so excited to bring our restaurants to Indian Country so we can expand the market for ourselves, but also to bring opportunities to people in other areas,” Chef Paul Wahlberg said to Native News Online. “It allows us to bring our marketing programs to Indian Country and we get to participate in the great programs Indian Country.”
On Friday, the first Wahlburgers restaurant at an Indian gaming facility opened at the Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa in Cabazon, Calif.
“When I leave here, I’m driving to Morongo where we will open a Wahlburgers restaurant for the grand opening on Friday.
The new restaurant at Morongo was putting the final touches on construction when the Little River Holdings agreement was announced on Wednesday. Therefore, it is not part of the business Little River Holdings will conduct with Wahlburgers Franchising.
While on stage, Chairman Stevens presented Mark Wahlberg, Paul Wahlberg, and Little River Holdings Chairman Frank Lewis with the Chairman's Award for their commitment to build business with Indian gaming casinos.
"Food, family, and fun are our pillars. Indian casinos provide food and fun. In Indian Country, there is a strong tradition of families, so we thought this is a strong combination of what we stand for and what you stand for, so it seems like a natural fit,” John Fuller, president and CEO of Wahlburgers said to Native News Online. Fuller said he would like to see 100 or 125 Wahlburgers restaurants in Indian Country in the next several years.
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