The Hartford Chamber of Commerce spoke with Arzu and Carlos Stetzelberg, owners of Rush Bowls Hartford, to find out more about the franchise’s first Connecticut location.
When and why did you start your business?
ARZU STETZELBERG: We opened in February 2019. I had been in finance working at a bank. Ten years ago, when our second child was born, I decided to take some time off. Fast forward to two years ago, I was thinking about going back to work and I didn’t want to go back to an office job or a big company.
Carlos and I explored different ideas. When we decided to start our own business, I knew I wanted to do something with healthy food. We looked into franchises and found out about Rush Bowls, which uses natural, nutritious ingredients.
Tell us a little about the process of starting a new business.
CARLOS STETZELBERG: Part of the challenge of being a new business owner is the unknown unknown—you don’t know what you don’t know. You want to make sure you’re following all the right steps and not missing something big that can suddenly become a problem.
The franchise was very supportive, because we are store number 11. That was part of the reason why we joined this franchise instead of one with a similar concept but with more maturity, which may not be so vested in every individual store. We got a lot of help from Rush Bowls, but they are headquartered in Colorado so, they can help us with certain things, but others we had to figure out ourselves.
ARZU: We did our own research and learned along the way. For example, we researched and found our realtor, lawyer, contractor. It’s all a separate process.
Many businesses downtown create an economic impact by providing new job opportunities. How many employees do you have? Do you hire local students?
ARZU: We have 10 to 12 mostly part-time employees. They are mainly locals who live around Hartford. We have hired a few students from the University of Connecticut and we want to build a relationship with UConn.
How are you marketing and building a customer base?
ARZU: The franchise helps us with marketing by pushing out ads and emails. From a local perspective, I do the social media, posting with a lot of pictures. We’ve also visited some businesses and hotels in the area to let them know we’re here and give them our menus.
ARZU: The reason we’re here is to offer a healthy option for the downtown community. We looked at locations in other cities and saw there was a lot of turnover. We want to have staying power. We’ve already gotten positive feedback. There’s not a lot open on Sundays downtown and we are open. Throughout the week, there are plenty of students and businesses around. It’s a good mixture of people, not only residents. That’s another reason why we chose Hartford.
There’s been a lot of activity in the city lately, too. I think that’s why we ultimately wanted to be here. This part of downtown is coming up nicely. There are a lot of good restaurants and we see people walking around on the weekends. Hartford is building up residence, too. So, we hope things are only going to improve from here.
CARLOS: Hartford has a lot of potential. We feel Front Street can be a catalyst for that. It can be a destination within Hartford. What we like about Front Street is, as Arzu said, there’s a great variety with students, professionals, and residents. It’s a complementary type of customer base.
What’s next? Do you plan to expand?
ARZU: Yes. We’re planning to open two more locations in Connecticut. We haven’t decided where yet. We want to make sure this one is running smoothly. Then we’ll focus on looking for other locations.