Many of us watched Phatso’s Bakery featured on the Food Network’s ‘Save my Bakery’ show last week with great interest and pride. As with all reality shows, there was a mix of fact and embellishment to make for good TV as we were led to believe Phatso’s really needs saving. If nothing else, Phatso's received national exposure and a beautiful new facade.
Despite the success of this family business, it continues to wallow in a number failures which a reality show can even reverse.
Despite being located in a very high traffic area right across from the Chester Transportation Center, Phatso’s is the only viable business on his block between 6th and 7th Street. Well, there is Showell’s deli but since I’ve never been in there, I assume there’s no reason to go in there. The Amish failed with their indoor farmers market, even with the city’s help. A Bar-B-Q joint has attempted to open in that space but it looks doomed before the doors ever opened. (I wonder if they had help from the city, too?)
Conclusion: The Phatso’s brand has failed to bring other business to join them on their block.
You can only buy Phatso’s donuts and muffins at Phatso’s. They are so good there’s no reason they aren’t sold all around, in corner stores, gas stations, work places, etc. But Phatso’s has failed to expand beyond the tiny store front on Welsh Street. Even when Harrah’s contracted with them, the relationship was short lived.
Conclusion: Maybe Phatso’s isn’t geared for growth. They could be satisfied where they are if it’s paying the bills for the business and the household. Staying in the comfort zone of a single small location may be what’s preventing the next generation from being excited about taking over the business.
Related to Failure #2 is failing to grow through forming additional outlets. If a Phatso’s can work in Chester, it can work damn near anywhere. Creating multiple outlets or even franchising seems like an easy progression for a small boutique bakery with its quality products. You can sit a Phatso’s right next to a Dunkin Donuts and for the donut lover, they’ll do Phatso’s all day. Of course, Dunkin doesn’t focus on donuts (check out their logo - it features a cup of coffee).
Conclusion: The business of making donuts is hard enough to have to be concerned with the business of growing an empire. It would take a team of experts to expand the Phatso’s brand beyond Welsh Street. There doesn’t seem to be any movement toward that end. Eventually, our only hope is that when the Phatso’s run is over, someone will be inclined to revive it just as Phatso’s revived Ann’s Donuts.
I love Rick Wilcox and family and love the Phatso’s brand. I’m there at least twice a week buying a powdered jelly and something else. I know for a fact that a lot of the people at the end of the ‘Save my Bakery’ show haven’t been in Phatso’s two times this year, but they were all smiles for the camera like they were his biggest supporters.
For me, Rick didn’t have to change a thing suggested by the reality TV host, and for the most part he didn’t. I share his desire to pass the family business on to his children. Unless Phatso’s grows beyond a single location bakery, it’s not likely to happen. The children would be more suited to run the Phatso’s enterprise as executives and not as interested in waking up at 2am every morning to knead dough and cut out donuts.
Small business owners should be preparing to pass on more than a store front so that even if the offspring don’t get directly involved, the money flow continues.
Even if it never happens like that, I’m going to continue to gorge on all the powered jelly donuts I can.