STAMFORD, Conn. — A Stamford man who ditched Wall Street to open an ice cream shop is enjoying big business success with four locations — including its first franchise.
That sums up why his 13-year-old company is a success, Jay Ragusa, who owns of Gofer Ice Cream in Stamford with his brother, told Daily Voice.
"This allows fans of the store to own and operate their own Gofer. Last summer we awarded our first franchise in Darien and sold the existing store to a nice couple from Stamford," he said. "Things are continuing to go well in that town as we have had record years in both 2015 and again in 2016. We hope to announce more new Fairfield County locations soon."
Ragusa left a career as an analyst for UBS in New York City and moved back to his hometown to open the first Gofer Ice Cream in Greenwich in 2003.
"My brother joined me in 2010 and has helped champion the growth of the existing stores as well as new ones over past six years. He worked in the real estate world in Denver for several years before joining me," Jay Ragusa said.
Admittedly, operating the ice cream shops has been a long road, but finally, the brothers are at the point where they could have franchisees.
"We feel we have really built a local brand within Fairfield County and put in place a system where a franchise could benefit from being associated with Gofer, as well as leveraging our experience over the years," Ragusa said. "I was hoping initially franchising would have started within first four years, but we had to iron out some things and wait out the yogurt craze where the market became saturated."
Gofer Ice Cream grew in popularity, mainly because the brothers have held true to their mission, "to serve top quality products in a clean, friendly environment."
"We pride ourselves on being the home-team shop and one can see that most people really like what we have built. Hopefully, as we grow we will keep the same customer focus and quality of the product in all shops," he said.
Ragusa said he has had only two jobs since college. After graduating from Quinnipiac University, he landed the one in finance at UBS in eight months.
But he always knew he wanted to be "out on my own."
"At first I was going to manage my own fund and set up shop that way, but after 9/11 I wanted to do something even more rewarding. So I traded my ties for a scooper," Ragusa said.
He likes being his own boss for many reasons, not least of which is because he thinks the work is "fun."
"It's something you really want to be up for and not expect or treat it like a 9-to-5 position. These days I don't really see my hours as work. It's all fun for me," he said.
What advice would he give someone who wants to leave a job to start a business?
"I would say try the business before you leave your job. You don't necessarily need to spend hundreds of thousands, either, to get started."
Gofer Ice Cream maintains the traditional feel of an ice cream parlor, where you can buy malts, shakes and banana splits, he told Daily Voice.
Popular ice cream flavors include praline, Heath Bar, brownie, caramel, peanut butter cup, eggnog and mud pie.
Their parents, John and Joyce, came out of retirement to help the brothers launch the stores, and they continue to help with training and some operations.
"I believe they enjoy being involved and can see the way customers enjoy what we created from nothing. It satisfying feeling for all involved," Ragusa said.
For more information about Gofer Ice Cream with locations in Darien, Greenwich and Stamford, click here.