Since Philly blog Unbreaded launched its sandwich crusade earlier this year, co-founders Ben Kessler and Jeff Vogel have been getting noticed by foodies all over the city. CityPaper’s MealTicket sought their sandwich sage, and Phoodie.info served them up a cold dish. When we called Kessler Sunday afternoon, we found that their stake (pun unintended but appreciated in hindsight) isn’t ending in Philly.
The co-founders are attracting interest from sandwich aficionados across the country, and have plans to expand to other cities. Unbreaded was featured on Philly’s Thrillist this morning, and the creators have been chatting with a national magazine editor; about what, Kessler won’t let on. But we can guess the conversation wasn’t about with-Whiz or without.
Kessler and Vogel got the idea for Unbreaded from sites like Digg, where user-submitted sandwiches that test the limits of white bread are popular, and Hamburger Today, a vegetarian’s worst nightmare. They liked what they saw – and not because they were hungry. They decided Philly’s sandwich culture needed a voice. And what better timing? As Kessler puts it, “sandwiches are the ultimate recession meal.”
This isn’t the first venture Kessler has set forth on. He recalls that when he was a young teen, he attempted to make an online video game store before there was such a thing. “When I tried to [have distributors ship] video games to me, distributors would ask ‘what’s your business tax ID number?’ I didn’t even know my social security number. I was just way too into technology.”
Kessler found himself years later still interested in tech and trying to harness his writing talent as a marketing student at Drexel, where he is currently a senior. He landed an internship with Center City-based The Neat Company handling web marketing, where he met Unbreaded’s co-founder Vogel. Both men watched the company, which produces and markets consumer scanners for things like receipts and business cards, blossom from 10 employees to more than 150. Over the summer, Kessler set forth for San Fransisco and worked at a private technology PR firm, who dished out relations for Evernote, a popular online notekeeping platform, among others.
Having been surrounded by technology for so long, hacking together a WordPress install for Unbreaded was cake for the young marketer. Cake? Maybe grilled cheese. As it turns out, people love sammies. Kessler says he was surprised by a 3-page e-mail from one fan, and the site boasts an active dialogue on Twitter. Users may not like sharing their lunch, but they don’t mind sharing details. “Sunflower seed butter on whole wheat sandwich bread,” said one user. “Museum Deli! $3.79 for ham & cheese on wheat,” another told Unbreaded.
Kessler says they’d like to keep expanding Unbreaded. What’s in store? They hope to have sandwich showdowns between restaurants (“What’s the best of the five best roast pork places in Philly,” Kessler asks), traveling correspondents, and neighborhood sandwich beat reporters. The Unbreaded crew would also like to see more user-generated content that can drive the site.
Kessler jokes that what he really wants is a deal with the Food Network. “Hopefully someone will fly me around the world like [Zane Lamprey, host of Have Fork Will Travel], to eat sandwiches.”
We’re rooting for you, Ben. But if you end up in Italy, skip the sandwich for Europe’s finest dining. Or at least grab a Panini in an outdoor cafe.
Each week, Technically Not Tech will feature people, projects, and businesses that are involved with Philly’s tech scene, but aren’t by definition “technical.” Hopefully there will be more sandwiches involved.
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