Growing Tom+Chee chain enters Toledo marketWritten by Staff Reports | | firstname.lastname@example.org
By Tom Konecny
Riding a wave national TV exposure and ultra-fast franchise growth, Tom+Chee is opening its first location in the Toledo area.
The Cincinnati-based franchise offers mainstays tomato soup and grilled cheese (hence Tom+Chee) as the pillars of its menu, but it’s the extreme spin on these comfort foods that has garnered instant notoriety from appearances on “Shark Tank,” “The Chew,” “The Today Show” and “Man vs. Food Nation.”
“Our claim-to-fame is our grilled cheese donut,” said Pam Adams, who co-owns and operates the franchise with her husband, Tim. “The whole concept is quirky, where you can work and have fun at the same time.”
The restaurant is also known for its fresh approach and making much of its menu in-house and from scratch, including soups, sauces, dressings and meat roasting. Tom+Chee also offers vegan and gluten free options.
“Nothing here is deep fried,” Adams said. “We don’t even have a freezer, so everything here is fresh. You get a nice, good-sized sandwich for the price.”
Both Adams’s are Toledo born-and-raised, but neither has restaurant experience. Tim still owns and operates a flooring company, and Pam worked in customer service, but “Shark Tank” introduced them to the Tom+Chee concept.
“I was unemployed at the time when we saw it air on ‘Shark Tank,’” Pam Adams said. “And that’s when we thought, ‘what a great concept.’ We just looked at each other, and it reminded us of our childhood.”
The concept came from founders Trew Quackenbush and Corey Ward, who started their operation with a tent next to Cincinnati’s Fountain Square ice rink in late 2009. During the following 18 months they would open three locations in the Queen City area, but it’s when they appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank” in May 2013 that the idea flourished. They immediately received 9,000 inquiries from all 50 states, many from abroad. By the end of this year, the founders project they will be opening Tom+Chee shops at the rate of one a week.
“I liken it to hanging onto a string attached to a rocket,” said Quackenbush “For the most part, I like the challenge and we’re shaping our play right now to make our thing. We say it all the time, ‘this is our baby,’ and you do everything in your power for your baby.”
The Toledo market represents the chain’s ninth franchise and 12th store. Columbus opens its first location this week, as well. Tom+Chee currently has 150 stores under contract and on the way in 20 states. Industry publication Nation’s Restaurant News recently named Tom+Chee one of ten “Breakout Brands of 2014.”
“(The founders are) so grounded and true to themselves, and have just done it the right way,” Adams said. “I’m glad for never having been in the business, to be brought into it this way. I thought it just made a perfect fit for the area. Toledo is a food place.”
Tom+Chee’s grand opening is May 9 at 11:00 a.m, which includes a ribbon cutting and an appearance by co-founder Corey Ward.
Tom+Chee is located at 1639 Tollgate Drive in Maumee. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information, call (419) 887-1774, or visit tomandchee.com.
Tags: Cincinnati’s Fountain Square, Columbus, Corey Ward, grilled cheese, grilled cheese donut, Pam Adams, The Today Show, Tom+Chee, tomato soup, Trew Quackenbush, “Breakout Brands of 2014”, “Man vs. Food Nation”, “Shark Tank, ” “The Chew