Owners of a Ballantyne coffee shop are expanding their speciality waffle empire with a second location.A second Cast Iron Waffle shop opened in Piedmont Row in June owned and managed by a former shop manager “like a franchise.” Owner Chris Duggan’s plan was to expand. He says a frequent failure of businesses that go under is that they don’t give themselves enough time to succeed. “My business plan included several years for proof of the concept,” he says, “and now I’m in the measured expansion part of the plan.”When Chris and Krista Duggan opened Cast Iron Waffles in 2010, they decided to focus on Liege Belgian waffles to distinguish their shop from others.“We decided to follow the Five Guys model of doing one thing and doing it really well,” said Chris Duggan, 42.When the couple relocated to Charlotte from Lincoln, Neb., in June 2010, they had done their homework. They knew it would be the right environment for their new business venture and that their five children would have lots of academic and athletic opportunities. But the climate also factored into their decision. “Anyone from the Midwest,” says Chris Duggan, “can tell you why we’d want to leave Midwest winters.”Chris Duggan, an entrepreneur, used the move as his way of venturing into the food business. “Our research indicated that people still eat out in a soft economy,” he said. “They’re not buying big TVs or going on vacation as much, but they’re still buying a latte.” With that in mind, the Duggans decided to open up a full-service coffee shop, but one that would offer a niche product. And Liege Belgian waffles are not just any waffles. Chris Duggan got the idea after watching a Food Network special on them that featured a shack that sold them on a skiing mountain in Europe. “The line,” says Duggan, “snaked all the way down the mountain.” Liege waffles use a brioche dough that must be finessed and risen for several days. It is then infused with imported Belgian pearl sugar that caramelizes as the waffles cook, with the sugar granules that aren’t incorporated into the dough adding some extra crunch. The waffles are cooked in an authentic 100-pound, $3,500-cast-iron waffle pan that is also imported from Belguim. “I ordered it on a leap of faith,” Duggan says. “And as soon as we tasted the waffles, we knew we were on to something.” The most popular waffle at Cast Iron Waffle is the Deluxe, which sells for $4.50 and comes with Nutella, two fresh fruits and homemade whipped cream. The waffles look small but are incredibly rich and filling. Another popular addition to the menu is the Lumberjack, which is drizzled with maple buttercream and then topped with crumbled bacon. Duggan’s favorite is the Naked Waffle, which doesn’t come with any toppings because, as Duggan says, “these waffles are delicious with nothing on them.” The Duggans picked their Ballantyne location, in the shops just past Ardrey Kell High School (one of the local schools that drew them to the area and where their kids attend school, in addition to Community House Middle and Elon Elementary), to keep their start up costs low. They opened the doors of Cast Iron Waffle in October 2010 and have developed a core of devoted customers, many of whom also take frozen waffles home and ship them to friends and family across the country. Chris Duggan is in charge of business development and accounting, while Krista Duggan, 40, trains and oversees the employees and works in the shop to ensure quality control. “It is a real team effort,” Duggan says.
Friday, Jul. 12, 2013
Their niche: Liege Belgian waffles
Want to go? Cast Iron Waffles is at 9604 Longstone Lane at the Southwest corner of Marvin and Ardrey Kell Roads. A second location opened last month in Piedmont Town Center.
Katya Lezin is a freelance writer. Do you have a story idea for Katya? Email her at email@example.com.
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