Entrepreneur Jeremy Neren said he is living his dream. Back in his hometown, he’s in the “beta launch” phase for the new St. Paul location of Madtown Munchies, a unique food company targeting college students.
The new store is located on Marshall Avenue near St. Thomas’ campus and offers a variety of products, including ice cream, crepes, sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies, and the company delivers customers’ purchases by bicycle until 3 a.m. on weekends.
“I view this as something that could be on every college campus in the country,” Neren said.
After the store’s first seven years serving Madison, Wis., Neren said he doesn’t anticipate a smaller student-body as a drawback to his business.
“It’s different in that it’s multiple schools. We have five private schools within a two and a half mile radius between (St. Thomas), Macalester, St. Kate’s, Hamline, and Concordia,” Neren said. “It’s going to be fewer students even with all the five combined schools … smaller total enrollment, but hitting our target market a little bit more.”
Technically, the addition to Marshall Avenue opened Friday, Oct. 4, but Neren said the company hasn’t advertised yet because it wants to start slow.
“We don’t do all those prepared foods in Madison, so that’s a newer thing for us as well. We want to make sure operationally we are ready to fulfill substantial amounts of orders before we really dive into them,” Neren said.
While working out some kinks, Neren hopes to be fully up and running by the end of October. He also plans to create an app to make ordering more user friendly.
The St. Paul native graduated from Madison in 2005 and shortly after, opened the original Madtown Munchies in the fall of 2006.
“I’m not going to say we’re the biggest thing in Madison … but the name kind of conjures up the thought, ‘Yeah, let’s order from Madtown,’ so we’ve kind of developed a cult following,” he said.
Neren said being able to partner with Madison’s meal plan program helped propel the business to the next level and plans on doing the same around here. Currently, Madtown Munchies accepts “Concordia Cash and Macalester AUX cash,” and is in negotiations with St. Thomas to be apart of the eXpress account.
Senior Rob Denman attends Wisconsin-Madison and has used Madtown Munchies in the past.
“They got to my place relatively quickly. My only complaint was the huge markup on stuff, but they offered free delivery, so I got why they needed to,” Denman said.
Junior Alli Cheaney is curious to see how the prices compare to similar late-night businesses, such as Walmart and Super America.
“I’d go there if their prices aren’t ridiculously high because Walmart is open 24/7 so if something’s cheaper there and you have a car, you’d probably just go there,” Cheaney said. “Funny that they have this because I’m always saying that I wish (Super America) delivered.”
Senior Tommy Westmark said the business model doesn’t seem to be sustainable.
“I don’t see Madtown Munchies pulling in much revenue. Between buying products and paying bikers, I don’t see much room for significant gains in revenue,” Westmark said.
St. Thomas freshman Johnny Roisum said he has heard of the business, but doesn’t know what it is.
“I heard a couple buddies on the hockey team talk about it … sounds exactly like what us college-aged kids need late-night,” Roisum said.
Neren said coming back to St. Paul with his business is something he has looked forward to.
“I’ve been buying Izzy’s ice cream for the last 10 years; I’ve been coming to the coffee shop here since I was a kid,” Neren said. ‘It’s a bit of a dream come true to start something near where I’ve grown up.”
Joey Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.