He didn't even like to gamble. In February 2002, Timothy Tuttle was in Las Vegas for a work convention when he stopped at a casino with his boss and a few co-workers to play the slots. "I was more interested in watching [my boss] play, so I was just putting money in and hitting a button and watching her machine when [mine] actually rang," he says.
Tuttle won $1.9 million on the quarter slot machine, a decent sum of money to do just about anything. He was a Milwaukee native, but his employer had transferred him to Chicago, where he planned to work for a few years, save money, then return to Milwaukee to start a business. The Vegas jackpot put that plan on the fast track.
"I stayed on the job another three months, contemplating my options before making the final decision," says Tuttle, 30. Though he had the means, Tuttle needed to find the right concept for himself and the Milwaukee market. He chose Crescent City Beignets, a quick-service chain that specializes in New Orleans fare like gumbo and beignets. "I wanted something unique to Milwaukee," he says. "This area was lacking in Southern food, and I thought people would be receptive to something new."
Milwaukee got its first taste of New Orleans with the opening of Tuttle's Crescent City Beignets in August 2003 at the Grain Exchange, a recently renovated condo complex and commercial building. Tuttle, who acts as a co-manager in the store and oversees daily operations, is currently negotiating a second location.
Caught up in the excitement and hard work of launching his franchise, Tuttle recognizes that while all this would still have been possible without his slot machine jackpot, that made his business dreams more plausible. "Instead of owning this first location, I'd be looking at leasing a space and starting with a lot less working capital," he says. "I'd probably be starting at one location and taking years to build the foundation and get the additional working capital for my expansion plans." Both hitting the jackpot and buying a franchise, adds Tuttle, have propelled his dreams into reality "five, six years sooner."