Whatever Lights Your Bulb

Why Nut?

Found in 75 percent of U.S. households, the sticky, tan goodness known as peanut butter remains cemented on the roofs of American mouths, achieving staple kitchen status. This speech-impeding goo has been identified as a product of "personal nostalgia" by 26-year-old Lee Zalben, owner of Peanut Butter & Co., a cafe in New York City's Greenwich Village that offers a rich variety of gourmet peanut butter sandwiches. "Peanut butter is something everybody knows," affirms this pioneer of peanut butter eateries. "It provokes feelings of happiness and simpler times."

Zalben's offerings, such as The Fluffernutter, a marshmallow fluff and peanut butter sandwich, have captivated everyone from students to executives and senior citizens. And Zalben sees Starbuckian status in his future: "Ten years ago, people were drinking coffee and they sort of accepted it as coffee," he says. "Then some great retailers raised the bar by providing a gourmet product matched with great atmosphere and service. That's the model through which we're building Peanut Butter & Co. We get requests from all over the country for our peanut butter, and people are waiting for us to come to a city near them. Right now, we're working on a growth strategy."

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This article was originally published in the January 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Whatever Lights Your Bulb.

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