TCNJ Magazine Fall 2019

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8 The College of New Jersey Magazine His idea was simple. One, he had made a deal with the bagel shop owner that he would split the rent if he could operate in its off-hours — essentially 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. Two, he would ride the decades-long wave of the "fat sandwich" craze made popular by food trucks at Rutgers starting in the late '70s. And three, he would recruit his Phi Kappa Psi fraternity brothers and friends to help cook and deliver the sandwiches (think a sub roll piled high with indul- gences like mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers, and french fries) to hungry college kids. A Facebook group for the new late-night dining spot and some flyers around campus were all it took to get P R A I R I E t was a cold February evening in 2010 when Tom Armenti '09 walked into Ewing 's RJ's Bagels after hours, hauled in a bunch of frozen food from the trunk of his car, and launched a late-night sandwich shop for TCNJ students looking for a snack option that delivered. asked him to handle the insurance for the new location. In the process, Gabauer offered his buddy a little more. "I just helped him organize everything and got some things down on paper — some strategy and a real business plan." Armenti liked what Gabauer could bring and invited his friend to join him in his great big sandwich adventure. Gabauer had to admit that Armenti clearly had something here — bringing the Jersey staple to the masses — so the strategizer eventually quit his job and packed his bags for Colorado. Together, the pair created Fat Shacks in three states— 11 total, with millions in sales. Then another bit of luck came Armenti's way, and he went with it. "Deal. Let's go get fat."— Mark Cuban his phone ringing. "It got a little crazy that night," Armenti admits. "We had no idea what we were doing." But it worked. That night brought $2,300 in sales, and Fat Shack was born. This "just give it a whirl" mentality then led him to Fort Collins, Colorado, in 2011 to market to the 30,000 students at Colorado State University. "I just went on a gut feeling and knew that I was going to grind out the work and do whatever it took to be successful," says Armenti. With the opening of a full-time Fat Shack, Armenti called his TCNJ friend Kevin Gabauer '09, who'd landed in insurance after college, and I WHEN ARMENTI HEARD that ABC's Shark Tank was holding open auditions in Denver, he headed to the mile-high city and got a break. The first producer he met was from the East Coast and knew well the fame of the fat sandwich. Much to his surprise — since producers told hopeful entrepreneurs at every turn that they would likely never hear from them again — the Fat Shack pitch kept making it through round after round. Within a few months, Gabauer and Armenti were on set serving sandwiches to the show's famous investors. Robert Herjavec tried the Fat Slob; Lori Greiner bit into the Fat Tommy; Kevin Harrington ate

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