Thinking of Buying a Fast-Casual Franchise? Read this report first.

Ones to Watch | By Sabrina Davis

Amazon Café

When Mick Petrucci launched Amazon Café in Pennsylvania in 2002 with a plan to provide healthy, low-fat alternatives to traditional fast food, he was making quite a transition from his roots. His career began by growing a small ice cream store to the 65-unit Petrucci’s Ice Cream, and merging it with Joe’s Water Ice before selling the 153-unit chain in 2001. “It was a phenomenal business, but I saw customers’ interests moving from high-fat, comfort foods toward healthy alternatives,” Petrucci explains.

Around that same time, Petrucci walked into what was then one of three Amazon Juice stores and saw a line out the door for smoothies and the potential for so much more. After months of negotiations, he purchased the three stores, renamed them Amazon Café, broadened the menu, and began franchising. In four years he has grown the chain to 50 stores and has plans to open 30 more in 2007 and 50 in 2008.

Petrucci, Amazon’s president and CEO, has 12 years of experience in franchising and what he says is a strong team to support Amazon’s growth. But what makes this story most impressive is that, with all his success, Petrucci is just 32 years old. He started his career as a high school student, when he convinced his parents to put his college funds toward purchasing the original Petrucci’s Ice Cream store in 1990 from his uncle whose poor health forced him to retire. “I had started helping my aunt run the business and had fallen in love with it. I loved working with customers and saw the potential for growth,” he says.

But he sees even greater potential in Amazon Café, which he hopes to take abroad within a few years.

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