Chicago’s First vomFASS

vomFASS has long wanted a presence in Chicago and Mike Aldrich has stepped up to the plate, planning to open the first Chicago area store in 2016.

Toni Jakovec:  Hi Mike.  We’re very excited about a vomFASS shop in Chicago.  Do you have a projected opening date?

Mike Aldrich:  We’re in the very early initial stages, but it is our plan to open by the end of next summer.

franchisee-mike-aldrichTJ:  Chicago encompasses an enormous area.  What locations are you considering…downtown….suburbs?

MA:  Currently I’m looking at four or five potential locations.  Downton Naperville is a large and vibrant shopping area.  There is a corridor in the western suburbs including LaGrange, Western Springs and Hinsdale, which are relatively affluent with high volume downtown areas that might be possibilities.  Other locations of interest in the western suburbs are River Forest and Oak Park.  Both areas have a lot of pedestrian traffic and similar retail stores.  Evanston, across from the university is another potential location.  And lastly is a town called Glen Ellyn.  While not terribly large or with a huge downtown retail environment, there is a great complimentary business there called Marcels which is a high end culinary store that also does cooking classes.  I think this would be a great retail neighbor.


TJ:  Are you considering opening more than one vomFASS in the Chicago area?


MA:  I signed an agreement to have three stores. Of course, I want to get the first one right and then figure out where to go from there.


TJ:  Why did you choose Chicago?


MA:  I am from Chicago, so it works well for me.  Chicago is very appealing also because it is a huge metropolitan market with no vomFASS representation.


TJ:  Who will be running your shop?


MA:  For the first store, I plan to be very hands-on.  After that is up and running, I will engage a good general manager allowing me to focus on future shops.


TJ:  What is your background, Mike?


MA:  I’ve had a more than 30 year career in corporate America in various and different roles in operations and human resources.  My most recent job, in fact the one I am leaving to do this, as Senior Vice President of Human Resources, for Glanbia, an Irish global dairy and nutritional products company.  In fact, in Irish Glanbia means “clean food.”


TJ:  How did you first hear about vomFASS?


MA:  I was walking down the street in Madison last July and saw the new State Street store.  I was very interested in the building from an architectural perspective, but my companion was drawn to a sign in the shop announcing that there would be a wine tasting that night.  We came back for the tasting and had a great time.  As we were leaving, I picked up a card that mentioned they were looking for franchises, and an idea was born.


TJ:  Was this the first time you had considered a franchise?


MA:  The idea had been in my mind for a while, but this was the first time I seriously considered it.


TJ:  Are you a cooking enthusiast yourself, and if so, what do you like to cook?


MA:  Yes I am.  I love to cook and even bake occasionally.  I had always been someone who grilled and had a few signature recipes, but I have broadened that interest considerably in the past few years.  This has also enhanced my understanding of the food and wine business.  I was ready to leave the regimentation of the corporate world and eager to get into a business that was celebratory, which vomFASS certainly is.


TJ:  Have you had a chance to cook with vomFASS products yet, and if so, what is your favorite?


MA:  Well, I have not had the opportunity yet to try everything I want to, but I have honed in on the vomFASS Fig Chili Vinegar.  I have already cooked with it and used it in salads.  I know I will find other favorites because I have been uniformly impressed with the quality of vomFASS products.


TJ:  I am also a vomFASS Fig Chili Vinegar fan.  I use it instead of, or in conjunction with, Sriracha as a condiment for any Pad Thai, spicy noodle dishes.  It’s also great as a component in barbecue sauce.


MA:  Absolutely.  I also really like the vomFASS Red Pepper Extra Virgin Olive Oil.


TJ:  Mike, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?


MA:  I do have one funny story.  I was interviewing someone recently in my current position.  I was eager to tell the person, that although I was leaving the company, it was not because I was unhappy, but had found this unique opportunity.  The applicant asked me what I was going to be doing.  I explained the general idea of vomFASS, but I never used the name of the company.  The candidate than mentioned that during his time working at a company in the Philippines he had a favorite store there.  Finally he asked, what is the name of this company?  I told him it was vomFASS and he quickly perked up and said, “there was a vomFASS in our local shopping center and it was our favorite store.”


TJ:  Do you have any hobbies or interests you’d like to tell us about?


MA:  I do triathlons and marathons.  I did the Chicago triathlon two weeks ago and I’m running the Toronto marathon this coming Sunday. I just got back from a European trip where I spent 10 days in Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia on a motorcycle.  I like motorcycling, photography and cooking, so I have more than enough hobbies to keep me busy.


TJ: Do you have a recipe you’d like to share?


MA:  I do.  I have a terrific vodka marinara sauce.


TJ:  Thanks so much Mike, and welcome to the vomFASS family.


Great marinara sauces are a boon to any cook’s repertoire and this one from Mike Aldrich is a keeper.  A sauce that comes together quickly and will enhance your favorite pasta.  This recipe works for both busy weeknights and leisurely weekends.


Chicago Mike’s Vodka Marinara Sauce


  • 1/4vomfass-recipe-red-pepper cup Vom Fass Red Pepper Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 1 Large white onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced or crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup Vom Fass Vodka
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
  • Pinch sugar
  • 2 sprigs basil
  • 2 Tbs. oregano
  • vomFASS Salt and Pepper
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream


  1. In a large saucepan, heat the vomFASS Red Pepper Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Sauté the pancetta, garlic and onion over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes.


  1. Combine vomFASS Vodka and crushed red pepper – allow vodka to soak into the pepper flakes. Set aside.


  1. To garlic and onions, add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the canned tomatoes with their juices. Stir in the sugar, oregano and basil, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Add vodka & pepper liquid and simmer the sauce over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it thickens. Season with vomFASS Salt and Pepper. Discard the basil sprigs. Add heavy cream and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve over your favorite pasta.

NOTE:  Can add chopped red/orange/yellow peppers for more flavor/texture or to replace pancetta and make a vegetarian sauce.  Nonfat or low fat cream can be used to lower the calories – but it’s great with heavy cream.


Disclaimer: This information is not intended as an offer to sell, or the solicitation of an offer to buy, a franchise. It is for information purposes only. Currently, the following states in the United States regulate the offer and sale of franchises: California, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. If you are a resident of one of these states, we will not offer you a franchise unless and until we have complied with applicable pre-sale registration and disclosure requirements in your jurisdiction.