It was chocolate that brought Kelsey and Seth Lyons to Colorado and now it's sandwiches that are making them stay. Sandwiches, that is, and the privilege of living in a place like Summit County.
The young couple moved to Summit County four years ago with the purpose of opening up their own Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory shop. While the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory is a national franchise, the Lyons own the shop and run it themselves.
"We buy rights from the parent company, we use their name, we use their recipes," Kelsey Lyons said. "In exchange, we get a name brand that people know and love."
This was perfect for the Lyons, both freshly graduated from Missouri Western University, Kelsey with a degree in economics and Seth with a degree in finance and business. The opportunity to run the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory store in Silverthorne came to Seth through the university's business program, in which he beat out other student contenders to get his first chance at running a business.
"It matched an entrepreneur, myself, with a guy that wanted to finance a business," Seth said. "The whole idea of the program was for a guy like me to be 22 years old and start a business."
And that's exactly what happened. The Lyons moved to Colorado and within 20 months had repaid the loan. Business was doing very well and in the meantime they decided that, rather than move to Denver as they had originally considered, Summit County was the right place to settle down.
"We love Summit, we love the locals. It really kind of grew on us," Kelsey said.
With business doing so well and an empty spot next door, the Lyons decided they were ready to step up and expand their reach. Since they already sold chocolate, they thought that something complementary, such as lunch and sandwiches, would go along well.
"People would ask us, 'Where can I get a sandwich?'" Kelsey said, of when she worked at the chocolate shop. "So we felt like we were filling a need."
While they were deciding the next step, a friend told them about Which Wich?, a sandwich franchise found in Denver and Boulder, as well as throughout the States. They took a trip, tried a sandwich and knew that they had found their next step.
It took them about a year to finalize everything, including applying to the franchise and attending a two-week training in Dallas, Tex. to learn about the company culture and way of business. Once they came back from that, they were ready to go. Silverthorne's Which Wich? shop opened Feb. 22 and has been getting busier by the day.
Though they said they might consider opening their own shop much further down the line, both said they liked working with franchises. It gave them a chance, both now 27 years old, to hit the ground running, so to speak, with their business.
"We like having a franchise because you buy something people know," Kelsey said. "All the structure is already there."
The new Which Wich? store sits right between the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Chipotle at the Outlets at Silverthorne. There's even a door that connects the chocolate shop to the sandwich shop, so Kelsey and Seth can easily keep in touch throughout the day.
While Seth spends most of his time at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory or sorting out the financials and paperwork for both companies, Kelsey has taken charge of Which Wich? and can usually be found right in the thick of things. She works the counter, makes the sandwiches and chats with customers.
"I like to be out here where the action is," she said with a smile.
Although Which Wich? is a franchise, there is definitely a local and friendly feel to it. Customers can order directly from Kelsey herself and already, she said, they have a garnered a regular following.
"There are a lot of regulars already," she said, recalling one customers who comes in every day to order the same thing, which she rattles off with memorized ease. "We always say, 'The usual?'" she said, laughing. "It's fun to do that."
The Which Wich? ordering process is a little different from most restaurants, but the employees aren't afraid to jump out from behind the counter and explain it all to any bewildered-looking customers. Depending on the style of sandwich you want (vegetarian, beef, chicken, Italian) you pick up a different paper bag and use a marker to choose type of meat, cheese, sauces, vegetables, extra toppings, etc. The bag is then clipped onto a little wire and slid down the row as employees put the sandwich together.
Kelsey calls the style "fast casual," meaning that it's fast food but healthier and with more choices.
"We have 51 sandwich choices with 61 topping choices," she said. "You could literally eat a different sandwich every day of the year."
Which is a good thing, since Kelsey eats there every day. She also hasn't taken one day off of work yet since the shop opened. She gives this fact not with a sigh but a shrug and a smile, adding that she enjoys the work and the success her efforts have been receiving.
"It's a lot of fun," she said. "I really like it. I love all my employees and I love all the locals that come through. It's a lot of fun."