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A Day in the Life: Serving Up a Whole Lotta Sandwiches

For Andy Jacobi, the co-owner of New York's popular Untamed Sandwiches, manning a busy lunch counter while maintaining work-life balance is a tricky juggling act.
February 27, 2015

Like many successful entrepreneurs, Untamed Sandwiches founder Andy Jacobi spent some time in the finance world—while contemplating how to make a living doing what he truly loved. "I decided, after a number of years in finance, that I still had this passion for food and I wanted to pursue it," he says. "And I kind of wanted to marry my interest in business with my interest in food."

Searching for a way to apply his analytical skill set to the world of bistros and food service, Jacobi went to work for a grass-fed-buffalo company, as its director of sales and marketing. It was there that he saw an opportunity to strike out on his own in the marketplace. "There's no reason why a grass-fed burger needs to be over $20 in a fine-dining restaurant," he says. And with that in mind, "I started talking with one of my customers about this idea and got him excited about it. He's my partner today."

The idea was to bring a fine-dining menu into a quick-serve setting. His partner today is chef Ricky King, and their business is Untamed Sandwiches, an upscale-yet-affordable sandwich shop in Midtown Manhattan.

In this first installment of "Day in the Life"—a new OPEN Forum storytelling series that captures the 24/7 journey of entrepreneurial life—we join Jacobi as he works the counter, delivers orders, pauses for a stroll with his wife and dog, and caps it off with an evening dinner date.

12:11 p.m. Jacobi regularly delivers catering orders himself. Today, he drops an order off to his friend, Nsi Obotetukudo, the COO of The Alley, a co-working space in Midtown. "Catering is a big push for us," Jacobi says. "But, especially if a friend places a catering order, then I'm oftentimes the one who's running that over to make it both a social as well as a business opportunity."

12:21 p.m. Jacobi double checks the order one last time before setting it out for The Alley's tenants, who are being treated to lunch today by The Alley's staff. Much like the tech community, the "early adopters" at Untamed Sandwiches were all close friends and family members of Jacobi's. "One thing that is not lost on me is that, if not for my friends, I don't know where we would be in business," he says. "My friends have supported me from day one."

12:42 p.m. Returning to the shop, Jacobi jumps right in to help prep orders during the lunchtime crush. "We had someone out sick, so I was both working the line, making sandwiches, as well as managing the phones," he says. Like most entrepreneurs, Jacobi wears many hats, doing whatever needs to get done at that moment. "I am sweeping floors, I am mopping, I am making sandwiches, I'm putting cheese on bread," he says. "There's nothing sexy about 95 percent of what I do."

2:17 p.m. Jeff Bigner and Maggie McCormick, both friends of Jacobi's, stop in to grab a bite and catch up with him. Jacobi met them through Minds Matter, an education-oriented nonprofit that prepares inner city high school students for college.

3:13 p.m. Once the lunch-hour swell subsides, Jacobi returns to his office to handle the business side of running his restaurant. He and his partner started earnestly looking for a location in August 2012, two months after Jacobi graduated from Columbia University's business school. They finally found a space in April 2013 and opened their doors in January 2014. From the day he started looking for a space, Jacobi already had ideas for opening a second location. "We've built the space out with the idea that it could actually be the hub for three or four other locations," Jacobi says. Having built with that idea in mind, he and his partner are now looking at new locations to expand into. "We knew that we needed space for some of our most specialized equipment," Jacobi notes. "We have a tilt braiser that makes 30 gallons of stock at a clip. We built this place with the intention of creating a little commissary."


4:25 p.m. Decompressing after a hectic Friday afternoon, Jacobi sips a bowl of soup, waiting for the next shift to arrive. When considering where to set up shop, Jacobi was looking for two distinct traits—a reasonably-priced space and the right location, both of which Jacobi says are “totally at odds with each other." "Here, we were lucky that we were able to find both, a reasonable rent in a great neighborhood, with enough space that we could do all the things that we needed to do to expand the business."


6:28 p.m. Jacobi leaves work early on a Friday afternoon and heads to the Union Square Park dog run with his wife, Gretchen, and their dog, Revis. Jacobi and his wife recently tied the knot after dating for six years. Explaining how he integrates married life into his entrepreneurial life, Jacobi says: "My wife, the other day, said something that is probably true for everyone, which is, 'It's about managing expectations.' Her expectation is that she won't see me Sunday night through Wednesday night. I'm working 16-plus hours a day here during those times. Thursday nights I get home at a relatively reasonable hour. Friday afternoons I get home and I spend time with my wife and my dog. And then, Saturday, I have the day off."


7:17 p.m. Jacobi and his wife enjoy an early Friday evening dinner at a friend's restaurant. Having a life partner who's equally career-oriented helps, Jacobi says. "We've always made the decision that both of our careers were equally important and so, she respects what I'm doing here, just like I respect the job that she's doing at the company that she's at."


7:20 p.m. Fully aware of the balancing act that comes with an entrepreneur's personal and professional life, Jacobi still manages to keep a sense of humor about it all. "If you don't love what you're building and if you don't have the right mentality of 'I'm building something for the future, even if I'm not seeing the rewards of it right now,' then this life will kill you," he says, laughing.

Photos: Jehangir Irani