Peanut butter sandwich shop to spread nationwide

The small Dinkytown shop was created by a University Law School alumnus.

Jared Roddy

It is only open four hours a day and sells peanut butter sandwiches for approximately $5 a piece, but things are just creamy for P.B. Loco.

The closet-sized store in the Dinkydome is one of two P.B. Locos in the Twin Cities and will soon be franchising its name and product nationwide, owners said.

Ken Hall, who graduated from the University’s Law School in 1994, along with Keri Barney and Jodene Jensen, opened the niche sandwich and peanut butter enterprise the day after Thanksgiving in 2003 at the Mall of America. In February, they implemented their own peanut-butter-making and jarring factory, and followed up with the Dinkytown store in April.

The three owners quit their jobs as lawyers in May 2003 to pursue their idea of a gourmet, multivariety peanut butter sandwich shop.

“People ask us all the time, ‘You quit your job for this?’ ” Barney said. “I think a lot of people think you can start a business on the side, but that’s not a business, that’s a hobby.”

Barney said the group decided on gourmet peanut butter as a product after finding research that showed a surge in the popularity of “comfort foods” after Sept. 11, 2001. Comfort foods include ice cream and peanut butter.

Now, the company sells its peanut butter at Byerly’s and Lunds grocery stores, as well as at its own stores.

But some students, ones who have tried the product and ones who have not, do not buy into the idea.

“I just don’t like the idea of someone else making a peanut butter sandwich for me,” said junior Lindsay Bothe, who has not eaten any of P.B. Loco’s products. “And every time I’ve been here, they’re closed.”

First-year applied economics student Dan Skochil said he enjoyed his sandwich several months ago but has not returned.

“Really, when you get down to it, a peanut butter sandwich is a peanut butter sandwich,” he said.

Dinkytown store manager Jerry Groven said people justify buying the sandwiches because of the convenience and the difference between P.B. Loco’s products and the homemade

alternative.

Barney said they have had few complaints about the price because the sandwiches are “huge” and contain ingredients and combinations that are not available at home.

The store also relies heavily on word-of-mouth advertising, the owners said.

“When people are passionate about something, they tell others about it,” Barney said.

Despite some resistance to the concept, be it price or perception, the owners said they have had interest in franchising from across the country.

“We’ve received about 4,000 requests for franchising,” Jensen said.

Jensen said they will “ink the deal” for franchises in Chicago and San Francisco this month.

And despite the price tag, the novelty concept is what Hall said could create “buzz” in the new locations.

Skochil said, “I think there’s a demand, but the prices would have to be lower. They’d have to be selective about where they put it, too. You wouldn’t want to put it in a fast-food area – it’s not the same thing.”