While nearly half of Black-owned businesses were forced to close during the pandemic, Philadelphia entrepreneur Aaron Anderson found creative ways to not only stay open, but also to grow, adding to his number of franchises by pivoting and adapting to current trends.
Now, Anderson, franchise owner of four The Original Hot Dog Factory restaurants in Philadelphia, has partnered with Chef Reuben Harley (“Big Rube”) to launch three Big Rube’s Kitchen ghost restaurants – cooking facilities designed for takeout only – in Philadelphia. Customers can order food online and through delivery services from one of three new locations: Center City, University City and Subaru Park.
In addition to his four Original Hot Dog Factory locations in Center City, The Bourse Food Hall, Fishtown and Subaru Park, in summer 2020, Anderson opened another franchise in Philadelphia and is in negotiations for one in New York.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Anderson credits his mother, a single parent of five, with his unyielding strength, discipline, humility, passion and persistent need to be of service to those in need. Anderson’s foray into being a business owner – the very first in his family – started with the launch of his own screen-printing company in 2009, Union Printing.
Anderson’s success with Union Printing provided not only financial stability, but also the experience needed to open his first restaurant franchise in March 2020. His immediate success within The Original Hot Dog Factory organization led to him becoming an area representative, trainer for new franchisees and obtaining a percentage of company ownership.
His keen interest in technology prompted him to become an investor in the pharmaceutical application QwikScript and flight simulator application Flype. These strategic investments contribute to his growing financial portfolio and further strengthens his parent company Axxeum LLC, which was formed in 2018. In line with his desire to give back to the community, he became a member of Philadelphia’s Chamber of Commerce and The Pyramid Club. Anderson is an investor in Storehouse, a cannabis chain in New Jersey, and is finalizing a deal to become majority owner of a professional baseball team.
PW recently caught up with Anderson to talk about his new business ventures.
PW: How did you and Big Rube get together and decide to launch the ghost restaurants?
AA: I was very fortunate to meet Chef Big Rube in Philadelphia at a cooking event, and after tasting his delicacies, I immediately started to follow him on social media. I wanted to keep a close eye on his happenings because his food was just so good! We kept in touch, and after about one year of knowing each other, I approached him with this business idea and we decided to go into business together. I learned about the ghost kitchen concept when I launched my other franchises and figured this would be an excellent route to go with Chef Big Rube, and so far, it has been exactly that, a big hit – and we couldn’t be happier.
PW: When do you think they will launch, and how can people get all of the details – including how to order?
AA: There are currently two Chef Big Rube’s Kitchen locations that are up and running. One is located at 3300 Fairmount Ave. and the other is at 1308 West Girard St.
Customers can order online on all delivery apps including Grubhub, UberEats, DoorDash and Postmates.
We are planning to open several other locations to accommodate the entire city and targeting nationwide chains this year.
PW: You were born and raised in Philadelphia. How has growing up in the city shaped your life?
AA: As the one of five children raised by a single mother, my life has been anything BUT easy. My father died when I was very young and this forced me to become very independent to help my mother around the house and with my siblings. I grew up in the Logan section of the city, which was heavily plagued by violence and still is to this day. However, these very humble surroundings shaped me to be the extremely ambitious man that I am today. I have also developed a passion and drive to make a difference and to help others to overcome obstacles that may seem insurmountable.
I was determined to make a better life for myself and my family by staying out of trouble and prospering in education and business. My diligence, focus and perseverance have, in turn, afforded me the opportunity to not only help my family but to give back and encourage others that they too can do the same thing.
PW: While a lot of businesses were closing during the pandemic, you were opening businesses. It was a bold move, but you succeeded. Why do you think you were able to thrive while others struggled?
AA: We opened our Original Hot Dog Franchises in the midst of the pandemic when everything was shutting down last February and March. My first location at the Subaru Park Soccer Stadium in Chester closed immediately and wasn’t given a chance to get off the ground. So, I decided then to open another location in Center Center located at 125 N. 15th St., and this turned out to be a great decision. We focused on the delivery apps-based system and take-out orders by installing individual kiosks where customers can social distance and order in a safe, fast and effective manner. We also catered to first responders in the area by providing quicker service and making sure we met their every need as far as their orders. I didn’t have any prior restaurant experience. However, my prior experience in business taught me that the only constant is change and in order to thrive, one must adapt quickly to change by staying focused, committed and pivoting to stay afloat.
PW: You’ve come a long way and experienced a lot of success. What advice would you have for someone at the beginning of his or her journey? What are the keys to accomplishing so much?
AA: The best advice that I could give someone is to surround yourself with others who are positive, focused on goals and success and God-fearing. We are only as strong as those that we surround ourselves with. Having a mentor will also provide invaluable support in shaping one’s career. Never be afraid to reach out to someone who is doing what you want to do and ask for advice. Unlike when I was growing up, social media has made it possible to contact whomever you want to reach. Take advantage of this access and ask for an in-person or virtual meeting. With these astounding advances in technology, it is now possible to reach anyone around the world with a click of a button. Also, I would say research and do your homework! One should know as much information as possible about the field in which they are vying to go into. Being extremely knowledgeable will make the difference between success and failure. And last but not least, never let a ‘no’ stop you. You will receive plenty of ‘no’s but all you need is one ‘yes!’ Quitting is never an option and we all make mistakes. Mistakes make us sharp and aware of what to avoid next time. Setbacks are only setups for success!
PW: You’ve mentioned that you have plans to run for office in Pennsylvania. Are there any details you can share about that or any of your other future endeavors?
AA: I have several exciting plans in the works. I am in the process of becoming a majority owner of a minor league baseball team…I also have plans to write an autobiographical memoir about my life to show others that their beginning does not dictate their ending.
As far as my political aspirations, I have those plans on hold for now as I embark on my other goals. However, I still want to hold public office in some fashion to be a part of the change that we are all hoping to see in the city of Philadelphia as we are seeing an unprecedented crime rate during the pandemic. I believe this is because people have lost hope in these trying times and are resorting to violence and illegal means to find a way to feed their families. However, there is no excuse to break the law and not to be a law-abiding citizen…That is why I have dedicated my life to being a positive force by striving to be a pillar in the community.
We must instill hope in the city that I have come to love so much. I was born and bred here, and if my story can change one life, then I know my mission was not in vain.