David and Camille Rutkauskas, 40 and 34, respectively, have created a franchise any mallgoer can appreciate: Camille's Sidewalk CafÃ©, which offers a tiny oasis for tired, hungry shoppers. Their idea sets them apart, literally--the cafe offers sandwiches, smoothies, salads, wraps and coffee drinks in an enclosed space away from the packed, noisy, fried-food-dominated food courts.
The couple opened the first Camille's Sidewalk CafÃ© in the Woodland Hills Mall near Tulsa, Oklahoma, in October 1996 and began franchising three years later. The company now franchises both mall-based cafes and larger, inline locations.
Before they started Camille's Sidewalk CafÃ©, the Rutkauskases owned a deli and a sportswear chain. They never considered being franchisors, however, until the cafe came along. "The concept was tailor-made for franchising," David explains. "It's very efficient, and we felt the system we developed could be easily duplicated."
Camille's Sidewalk CafÃ© currently has 16 franchised units, with agreements signed for up to 26 more. The company is also planning to open a second corporate location this year, while plotting national expansion. "We have the right concept at the right time," David says. "The fast-food places are all geared toward kids now, and baby boomers want something quick in a place [with a] warm, inviting atmosphere. Yes, our concept is fast food, but it's so much more than that."