When two brothers decided to use their dad’s bagel shop to deliver some midnight snacks to local kids in the summer of 2008, they say they didn’t realize their unique model could become a viable business.
When they first started, AJ DiBenedetto was a recently-graduated lawyer, and his younger brother Rich was a student at Pace University. The two had grown up in the food industry – often working at their dad’s shop, Bagel Boys, on Main Street in Ramsey.
“My brother had the idea to use the kitchen at Bagel Boys at night, because no one was using it,” AJ told Patch of how the business started. So, in the summer of 08, Rich and a few friends ran ‘CARS Delivery,’ which delivered nighttime snacks to residents in Ramsey, Mahwah and surrounding towns.
“It was just going to be a summer job, but then we realized with Ramapo College here, we could really do this year round,” AJ said.
So, the two brothers started working at CARS fulltime, expanding its menu and marketing it to local high school, college and even middle school kids.
“It’s basically something where a group of friends is hanging out, get hungry, and can’t go pick up food, either because they are too young, or because they’ve been partying and can’t drive,” DiBenedetto explained. “So, they call us, and we deliver.
The menu is inspired by some of the “college food” that DiBenedetto said he enjoyed while an undergrad at Rutgers. CARS patrons can enjoy milkshakes, comfort food items, and “fat sandwiches.”
“At Rutgers, these grease trucks would line up on campus selling all sorts of fat sandwiches,” DiBenedetto said. “There was nothing like that here.”
The sandwiches are just as their name suggests – packed with a variety of different, non-traditional sandwich foods.
For examples, locals can order a Fat Hawk, which has cheesesteak, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, French fries and honey mustard all piled on two pieces of bread. Or, a Fat Homer, which has mac n cheese, cheesesteak, bacon, mozzarella sticks and hot sauce in one sandwich.
“We get a big portion of our business from Ramapo College,” Benedetto said. “But, we deliver to groups of kids hanging out at a lot of local houses, too.”
The catch, is that you need to be a late night eater to enjoy the CARS menu. It’s only open from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
“We kind of have this underground appeal that works,” he said.
But, don’t be fooled, the business model is not kid stuff.
The brothers are expanding – they opened a fulltime storefront in Montclair in 2011, and are looking into expanding their menu and adding possible additional locations in the future.
“We’ve gotten good feedback from customers,” DiBenedetto said. “Some funny feedback from parents, but overall it's been really good. In both Ramsey and Montclair, we are bringing something the business sectors didn’t offer local kids, so it’s been good.”