RAVENSWOOD — Running a small business as the sole owner/employee/stock boy/accountant/marketer has lost its fizz for Joey McCusty, the Joey of Joey's Soda and Snacks.
"It's just really involved," McCusty said of being a one-man operation.
In mid-April, the 34-year-old posted "Small Business for Sale in Ravenswood" to Craigslist and while customers immediately assumed profitably — or the lack thereof — was to blame, McCusty told DNAinfo.com Chicago that wasn't the case.
"I've been paying my bills," he said.
Patty Wetli chats about the struggles of Joey's Soda Shop:
Lacking the capital to advertise, offer promotional giveaways or expand his stock was "frustrating," he admitted, but his decision to sell has as much, if not more, to do with the fact that McCusty is a bit of a rolling stone.
"It's just hard for me to stay interested in something for a long time," he said.
Even something that had been a childhood dream.
"When I was a kid, I wanted a corner store," said McCusty, who grew up in Bryan, Ohio, a small town in the northwest corner of the state.
After graduating from a restaurant and hospitality program, he moved to Chicago in 2000, settling in Uptown. In 2012, he opened Joey's, 1946 W. Montrose Ave., as an updated, urbanized take on his original aspiration.
"In the city, there's a lot more niche things," said McCusty, explaining why he narrowed his focus to soda and snacks.
In short order, he dropped "normal stuff" like Snickers from his shelves and became known for his supply of craft sodas.
Chicagoans, many of them transplants from around the U.S., have been willing to pay top dollar for a taste of home, snapping up regional beverages from Michigan, Kentucky and Pennsylvania that they can't get anywhere else.
"People seek the place out," said McCusty, who lists chef Gale Gand's Gale's Root Beer as his personal favorite.
"If I'm having a crap day, I need a Gale's," he said.
Joey's has also become a destination, McCusty said, for people who don't drink alcohol. He's supplied a number of wedding parties with sodas, offering a unique alternative to mass-produced colas.
It's this sort of loyal customer base that would make the business attractive to a new owner, according to McCusty.
His lease is up in July, at which point he'll be off to Tennessee to help a pal start up an enterprise.
"Worst-case scenario, I'll close in July," McCusty said.
"I'd be glad if the store stayed open" with someone else at the helm, he said. They'd just have to pick up the cost of his rent, inventory and a minimal amount of equipment.
He's fielded a few offers, including from potential buyers interested in purchasing Joey's as a group.
McCusty compared the advantage of having business partners to splitting the cable bill with roommates.
"In hindsight, it would have been nice," he said.
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