When Frank Sinatra sang, “if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere,” he might have been singing about Hank’s Juicy Beef. First-time-restaurateur Henry Tibensky is bringing Chicago-style Italian beef sandwiches to New York City. The Oakpark native is calling it Chicago’s Finest Sandwich in The Big Apple, which you will now find downtown at 84 Chambers Street.
Before we talk business, let’s sink our teeth into the ingredients: slow-roasted beef, marinated in savory Italian herbs and spices, topped with a spicy (or mild, if you prefer) giardiniera, loaded onto a soft Italian-style roll. Who’s hungry?
Henry – who goes by Hank - says the sandwich took a long time to prepare, and by that he means the business itself; and by that, he means about four years from the initial “Let’s Do This!” to the Grand Opening.
Here’s the start-up history: first, you hammer out the idea and come up with a catchy name. You take a look at the marketplace (in this case, one of the most competitive restaurant markets in the world, with an idea that hasn’t really been tried there yet). Then you write your business plan, and find good, professional teams who can help you navigate through mountains of paperwork, permits and designs. Find the right partners (this may take a while), and the right real estate (this too may take a while). Oh, and don’t forget to take (and pass) your health certification course.
Hank says that there are indeed many bridges to cross; once you cross one, tomorrow you face another. However, empathetic friends and fellow entrepreneurs make the crossing more manageable, and finding investors who are people you trust (and people you like) makes the hard road less bumpy.
In Hank’s case, his friends at the successful Luke’s Lobster offered useful advice and fellow Yalie, Damian Brown, who founded The Bronx Brewery, now offers Hank’s Juicy Brew on tap. Beer and beef should go down easy for the downtown fast-casual crowd: everyone from municipal workers to lawyers and judges to creatives and neighbors.
Expansion plans? It’s a bit early, but expansion is always in the back of every entrepreneur’s mind. Hank wouldn’t mind enjoying a juicy beef sandwich at Yankees Stadium or Barclays Center, a year or two down the line.
For now, though, all the advice and support and future plans do not sweep the floors and cook the beef. For the last two years, that’s mostly been Hank’s job, but as all entrepreneurs know, you can’t do it all yourself; you need to form a team, and that is what Hank now has. The plan is two shifts of five-to-six people. Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (maybe 10 p.m. on Fridays).
Hank’s advice for fellow entrepreneurs: network, get out there. Talk to as many people as you can. Stay optimistic, don’t doubt yourself. All the while, try to have fun. And try to get some sleep along the way. You just have to believe in your idea.
Find out more about Hank’s Juicy Beef.