Icy Hot

Souper idea
This story appears in the January 2000 issue of Startups. Subscribe »
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Jamie E. Taerbaum is a man for all seasons; he cools down the summer and warms up the winter. It's easy to understand why people return to him time and again. Of course, it could be the food. Taerbaum operates ICEBOX/SOUPBOX, a specialty restaurant in Chicago that changes its menu along with the weather.

When the late spring heat envelops the city, customers line up for ICEBOX's Icyfruit, an Italian-ice-like treat made from fruit juice, sugar, water and chunks of fruit. Available in six serving sizes and 20 flavors, including cantaloupe, coconut, lemon and strawberry, Icyfruit is a refreshing way to pass a hot summer afternoon.

Once autumn settles in with chilly temperatures, SOUPBOX serves up--what else?--soup. Of the 70 healthy and hearty soups offered, a dozen are featured daily. Popular soup selections, which also come in six serving sizes, include broccoli cheese, chicken noodle, seafood gumbo and tomato florentine. Diners like to sop up the last spoonfuls with the hunk of fresh bread that accompanies each order.

As one seasonal business ends and the other begins, Taerbaum closes up shop for a few days and spends time renovating the shop. He repaints the walls and hangs different pictures to reflect the changing scenery outside. According to the 30-year-old entrepreneur, the quick fixes and overall transformation of the store "re-energize both the staff and the customers."

Taerbaum's business management education from the University of Illinois in Chicago certainly seems to be serving him well. Since he launched his niche restaurant in 1995, annual sales have grown to exceed $350,000. Now he's ready to taste the potential of expansion: Taerbaum recently formed JETBOX Inc. to facilitate a franchise program. Franchisees can opt to run a seasonal ICEBOX/SOUPBOX location that changes with the season, like Taerbaum's, or they can operate as ICEBOX or SOUPBOX year-round. Start-up costs range from $69,500 to $174,500.

"I like being in charge of my own destiny," notes Taerbaum. Chicagoans sure seem to like it, too.

Make The Call

Edition: November 2016

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