Big Shake's Hot Chicken, Tom + Chee: Shark Tank Survivors Enter Nashville Market

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I'm a big fan of Shark Tank, the Friday night ABC show where aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their business concepts to a panel of successful and often mean investors hoping to swap equity for cash and guidance. Having attended college in Silicon Valley in the late '80s, I've watched from afar as many of my friends and classmates went through the hoops of the venture capital world. It's definitely something I prefer to see on the flat screen instead of in real life.

Recently, two companies that have appeared on the show over the past couple of years have announced expansion plans into Middle Tennessee. Shawn Davis goes by the name Chef Big Shake, and he pitched his product to the sharks in May 2011. Even though nobody bit at his request for funding for "The Original Shrimp Burger," it turned out to be a very positive development for Davis. The exposure from his appearance and five subsequent re-airings helped the Shrimp Burger blow up, and his company has grown explosively while Chef Big Shake retained his equity stake.

Since then, Chef Big Shake's product line has grown to include even more Shrimp Burger flavors: Original, Teriyaki, Chesapeake, Jalapeno and Cajun. CBS Foods also produces a Veggie Burger and Lobster Mac-n-Cheese. The products are available online and in retail markets all over the country.

But deep down, Davis is a Middle Tennessee kinda guy with a love for local products like hot chicken. To that end, he has recently opened Big Shake's Hot Chicken and Fish at 1409 W. Main St. in Franklin in the former spot of Tacos Y Mariscos Lupe. Initial reviews from hot chicken aficionados have been generally positive, and the fact that Franklin fiery fowl fans won't have to drive those extra miles for their fix should make Big Shake's a popular destination. Plus they serve deep-fried Oreos!

Another Shark Tank contestant was a Cincinnati-based soup and sandwich shop named Tom + Chee. Founders Trew Quakenbush (great name!) and Corey Ward did get a deal from the sharks, with Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran giving them $300,000 for 15 percent of the business and retaining franchise rights in Texas and New York, respectively.

Since their May 2013 appearance, Tom + Chee has gotten amazing interest from potential franchisees and claims to have 150 stores under contract to open eventually with plans to be in 15 states by the end of this year. (Looks like current locations are in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and New Jersey.)

Nashville is definitely on the list for their concept of fancy grilled cheese sandwiches and savory soups. A local franchisee has been named, but opening dates and the location are still under wraps. So we'll all have to wait for one of Tom + Chee's grilled cheese doughnuts. Or drive to Louisville.

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