Young Chicago Couple Climbs to the Top the Hard Way – Tough Lessons Make Second City Prime Steak and Seafood a Huge Winner

Young Chicago Couple Climbs to the Top the Hard Way - Tough Lessons Make Second City Prime Steak and Seafood a Huge Winner
Chris and Susie unload a huge order from their Second City Prime Meat Mobile

Young Chicago Couple Climbs to the Top the Hard Way - Tough Lessons Make Second City Prime Steak and Seafood a Huge WinnerIt’s 6:00am in the bustling city of Chicago and Chris Maloyan, co-owner of Second City Prime Steak and Seafood, is already on the road. He’s heading north 100 or so miles to the summer home of one of Chicago’s most prominent families to deliver about 300 pounds of prime meats and seafood. There he will stock the client’s huge freezer himself, making sure all is perfect for the home’s summer needs. Family, friends, and parties will happen here, and no one will go home hungry.

Maloyan was a man with a vision and a pickup truck In 2006. He embarked on a journey that would take him from door to door, his truck filled with the promise of quality meats that would soon become the talk of the town. His days began before the sun rose, at 5:30 am, with the determination to bring the finest cuts to the tables of many.

As the years passed, Chris’s dream grew, and so did his means. By 2009, he was the proud owner of a meat van, a significant upgrade from his humble pickup. This van wasn’t just any van; it was his mobile marketplace, with chest freezers plugged into the inverter, brimming with inventory. Chris became a familiar face, visiting between 10 to 30 homes and offices a day, his reputation for quality and service preceding him.

The story took a turn in 2010 when Chris started dating Susie, a beautiful young lady who, at the time, was in her senior year at Loyola University. After graduating with a degree in Business Management Susie began a job with LifeFitness corporate, working in the division for the military and government.

“I loved my job but felt like I could be doing more,” said Susie. “I entered the Miss Arab USA pageant in 2010 and I was the 1st runner up. I realized I liked to be challenged to do bigger things, so when Chris and I got engaged in 2011, it occurred to me that I could help Chris grow this business. With his work ethic, gregarious personality, and ambition, he was already becoming quite successful. But by then we both realized it would be more beneficial for me to come work for Second City Prime full time.”

By 2014 the couple saw the need for more space to meet the growing demand. They installed large chest freezers in their garage, a testament to the expanding business. The truck, with its two chest freezers, could only carry so much, and Chris was not one to let limitations define his aspirations. 2016 marked the arrival of a state-of-the-art mobile freezer van, a marvel of Chris’s enterprise. Fully wrapped and branded, it was a showroom on wheels, a symbol of Second City Prime’s commitment to excellence. The van was custom-built with shelving and a showroom in the back, it is lovingly known as the “meatmobile” in hip Chicago areas.

The narrative reached a pivotal chapter in 2019. The branding of the new van had been so successful that Chris outgrew the capacity of his truck and garage chest freezers. It was time for a new beginning. Second City Prime found its home in a warehouse in a suburb of Chicago. A lease was signed, a walk-in freezer built, and a website launched, offering nationwide shipping for all their products. The business had transformed from a one-man operation to a nationwide sensation.

Susie, who is the queen of the organization and its expansion, took a journey from pageant queen to business partner, a tale of its own. Together, Chris and Susie faced obstacles that would have deterred the faint-hearted. From dishonest partners, and one thieving employee, to a stolen meat van, they emerged stronger, their bond unbreakable (see lessons at end).

Their dedication to quality led them to the very highest end of protein, sourcing the top 2% of prime beef and the finest wild-caught seafood. Their typical client? A connoisseur of taste, a seeker of the exceptional.

Young Chicago Couple Climbs to the Top the Hard Way - Tough Lessons Make Second City Prime Steak and Seafood a Huge Winner
Chris and Susie at their The Butcher & The Bear restaurant in Lincoln Park area of Chicago

The story doesn’t end there. In October 2023, inspired by a trip to Mexico and several friends, Chris and Susie opened The Butcher and the Bear, a swanky steakhouse that transformed a former Mexican restaurant into a culinary haven in Lincoln Park, a trendy Chicago neighborhood. Partners in this endeavor include a neighboring veteran restaurateur, Kost Demos, who owns the popular Sapori Trattoria in the same neighborhood, and Saul Ramos who is the chef.

Second City Prime plans to grow nationally, their seasonings and marinades gracing the shelves of grocery stores and the virtual aisles of Amazon. And who knows? Perhaps another Butcher and The Bear location will grace a lucky neighborhood.

And so, the story of Second City Prime continues, a testament to arduous work, vision, and the belief that from a simple pickup truck can grow a nationwide empire of taste and quality. Some lessons learned in Chris’ own words below:

Obstacle and Biggest Lesson

“Our worst experience turned out to be the biggest blessing because it allowed me to branch off on my own and start my own company. I was working with a partner originally. He not only would steal money from me by writing himself checks and cashing them, but he would also cheat our clients (without me knowing). He would promise them that he would come back and deliver the rest of their order, so they would pay full price for the entire order, but he would only give them half of their order and never show up with the rest. Unfortunately, some would even pay for a whole order, and he would never show up with any of it.”

Lesson Learned?

“You will be highly disappointed by people sometimes along the way. That kind of betrayal can really break a spirit. Don’t let it! This is about the morals and character of others, not about anything you did wrong. Get up, be more cautious about who you deal with in the future and keep your integrity. Even though this cost us financially, I then learned how valuable honesty would always be to clients.”

Second Most Important Lesson. Quality is King

“When I was working early on with my first job, I was selling a pre bundled 6 pack kit of steaks, chicken, and seafood. I was limited to that selection and quickly realized the quality was low grade. I never had customers excited to buy more. I realized I wanted something better in this business and I wanted to feel confident and proud of the products I was selling. After doing a lot of research I decided to go with only top-quality products. Many of which were hard to obtain and had lower profit margins for us. But I also realized that quality would blow customers away and they would come back. And that’s exactly what happened. I source the top 2% of prime beef in the country which is what our clients call for amongst other high-end proteins such as Australian and Japanese Wagyu and Iberico Pork, as well as the finest wild caught seafood.”

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