For Ryan Jones, crepes mean a whole lot more than just a tourist trap in Paris. They are his favorite food, his business, and his passion.
Jones and his wife Kathia are co-owners of Gotta B Crepes, a made-to-order crepe business centered in Evanston that pops up at farmers’ markets and special events around the Chicago area.
“I call it blackout,” said Ryan Jones about his crepes, sporting his company’s signature hot pink shirt splattered in chocolate. “You just lose where you’re at. You’re just so enthralled with the food and it’s just all the flavors together. So just to be part of that, creating that experience, each customer at a time, each crepe at a time is just super exciting.”
But Jones, now permanently tattooed with his company’s logo of a crepe-making bee, didn’t always want to be a crepe maker. In fact, there was once a time when he hadn’t even tried a crepe.
Jones first embarked on the culinary path in college through an internship with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises Inc. where he learned both the business and personal sides of the restaurant business, giving him what he calls a “master’s degree in restaurant operations.”
After graduating, Jones joined a partner from his internship in opening up The Magic Pan Crepe Stand in 2005 where he learned to spin crepes and fell in love with the business and his wife, who was also working there.
“I can’t say it was love at first sight,” Jones said about meeting his wife. “She was beautiful and I was like ‘maybe one day,’ but I was very focused on my career at the time…and so that would happen. Before the [Magic Pan] closed down, we got married.”
After Magic Pan closed in 2010, the Joneses started their own crepe business, right on their front porch.
According to Jones, the name Gotta B Crepes derived from his difficulty pronouncing Kathia’s name when they met. Instead, he’d call her “Gata” and when she’d cook up something great, he’d exclaim, “Gata be the magic!”
Soon after starting out on the porch, they began selling at farmers’ markets all around the Chicago area, averaging about 50 crepe sales an hour. Now, they can average up to 150 sales an hour, depending on the market.
The Downtown Evanston Farmers’ Market, held from May to early November at the intersection of University Place and Oak Avenue, has a special place in Jones’s heart. Evanston is where he first began dating his wife and where the pair chose to settle down and raise their two young children.
“Even that winter as I just got started, I remember thinking one day having grandkids and telling them how it is being a crepe maker,” Jones said. “From the get-go, I really loved it that much.”
To the Joneses, business is more than just business, it’s family. But the term family stretches far past the biological meaning as they commonly refer to their employees as their children, said Kathia Jones.
Love of the work is not only something the Joneses believe in, but something they instill into their employees.
“It’s kind of silly to think that a fast food place could put so much love into its food,” said Thomas Tarnowski, a crepe maker. “But each crepe is a moment.”
“We truly do enjoy it,” Ryan Jones said about his business. “One of our greatest joys is that feeling you get when you serve something to someone that enjoys it so much.”
“I think that’s the key about passion. You have to find something you’re passionate about and good things will happen.”