No soup for you? Nonsense!

Alumnus opens soup shop at RIT

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After Jake Torcello graduated from the E. Philip Saunders College of Business in 2009, he did what he has done in one capacity or another since the age of 6: He worked for his father.

His father, Rick, owns Nathan’s Soup and Salad, a fixture in Rochester’s southeast quadrant well known for its homemade soups, breads and sandwiches.

But Torcello wanted to do more with his business background. So he approached Craig Neal, the associate director for new business development with RIT Dining Services, to ask if the university would consider selling Nathan’s soups on campus.

“At the same time we were trying to convert the old candy counter (in the Student Alumni Union) to serve candy again,” Neal says. When that plan for candy did not work out, “we started thinking in other directions.”

Neal and Torcello came up with a plan for RIT to renovate the space to house Nathan’s and to collect a percentage of sales. This way, Neal says, if business is ever slow, “they would not have a large monthly rent payment. We feel pretty good about the arrangement, and I know they do too. We are able to give the RIT community variety in terms of a successful off-campus vendor that operates as its own business.”

Nathan’s opened in November 2010 in the Student Alumni Union. On a good day, more than 300 customers visit the new location.

“Local colleges were our first targets for expansion,” Torcello says. “They have a captive audience that cycles through every four years. We could grow our brand name, and our product is perfect for the college season since soup is in high demand from fall to spring.”

Not counting Torcello, who is on site every day, Nathan’s at RIT employs four regular workers, including two RIT students, plus a few others who fill in as needed. Although he initially worked about 55 hours per week at RIT, handling every aspect of the new location, over time Torcello has relied more on his employees for such duties as closing at night. Torcello has continued to open every morning and he keeps the books for both Nathan’s locations.

Torcello first came to RIT after getting an associate in science degree from Monroe Community College in 2007. He used projects in his finance, marketing, operations and other classes at the Saunders College of Business to explore branching out Nathan’s to other sites.

To allow for the increase in production that the RIT location requires, the kitchen at Nathan’s on Park Avenue was remodeled. In addition, since all soups are cooked and other foods are prepared at Park Avenue, a van was bought to transport all products to RIT every morning.

These products include nearly 40 gallons of soup, 10 gallons of sandwich fillings and 300 breads and croissants.

Although Nathan’s has been around since 1980, Rick Torcello didn’t own it until 2007, when he purchased it from the family of original owner Walter Nathan Harby. Nathan’s had been a long-time customer of Rick Torcello’s window-cleaning business, Crystal Clear Windows, which he still owns.

“RIT was very accommodating,” Jake Torcello says. “We couldn’t ask for a better first expansion. We can only hope that any future ones go as well as RIT.”