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Baskin Robbins: Scooping Up Success


By: Envista

Baskin Robbins: Scooping Up Success

As a Topeka native and a long-time business owner, Steve Shortman has come to appreciate the value in local relationships. As the Baskin-Robbins franchise owner of both Topeka locations, he has found success by staying true to who he is – your friendly neighbor serving up frozen treats with a smile.

A Sweet Transition from Cars to Cones

Shortman started his entrepreneurial journey in the car business, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. But after running a dealership in North Topeka for several years, he decided it was time for a change. Almost a year later, a fateful trip to the convenience store provided him the sign he was looking for.

“I was at Walgreens one day and noticed a for sale sign across the street,” said Shortman. “It was for a strip mall that Baskin Robbins was in, and I just kept thinking that space had so much potential.”

The commercial building was located near the corner of 29th and California. Curious, Steve reached out to the existing owner and a few conversations later, he became the proud new owner of both the building, and the Baskin Robbins franchise.

Five short years later, he found himself in a position to purchase the Baskin Robbins located at 4400 SW 21st Street. Wanting to avoid competition with another franchise in town, he gladly said yes.

Hitting a Rocky Road

Years into his new business venture, Steve was finding his stride and seeing success. But ongoing challenges with his financial institution were causing major delays in operations. With no local ties or contacts to help him, the relationship with his bank wasn’t aligned with his dedication to supporting his local community.

“To call or meet with anyone, you had to go through a gatekeeper,” said Steve. “I was always told someone would have to call me back, but I would never hear from anyone. Everything took forever and it was getting to the point I was spending all of my time trying to get a hold of a loan officer far away, who knew nothing about Topeka.”

Frustrated with his experience, Steve confided in his accountant who, in turn, recommended he consider working with someone local. A referral to Erik Evans, AVP of Commercial Services at Envista, quickly turned into a valuable partnership and a welcomed change he didn’t know he needed.

“My experience with the Envista team felt very personal,” said Steve. “Talking with Erik was just like dealing with a friend or neighbor. It was such a relief working with a team who made it easy. They knew Topeka, and they were all so friendly and helpful. I just didn’t realize how easy it could be.”

The Envista commercial team helped Steve seamlessly transition his business accounts over. From there, they set up a loan to finance the recent renovation of his 21st Street location. With a fresh new look and a local team in his corner, he now had the support he needed to help his businesses thrive.

Savoring the Moment

Almost 20 years into his journey, Shortman says the change in careers has made going to work every day something he looks forward to.

“In this business, everyone comes in happy and leaves with a smile on their face,” said Steve. “It’s not a confrontational conversation and no one has their guard up, and that’s nice. I really wanted to do something I enjoyed, and now going to work doesn’t actually feel like work.”

And while it might not feel like work to Steve, it hasn’t stopped him from being actively involved in the day-to-day of running a business. Whether it’s sweeping floors or greeting guests as they walk in, Steve finds value in setting the example for both his staff and his community.

“As a business owner, it’s important for me to be present and do more than just collect my check,” said Steve. “We have a lot of long-time customers who come in regularly and I think physically being there lets them know we care. We’ve learned what they like and when they pull in, we can start making their order for them before they even walk in the door. That’s the kind of example and work ethic I’m trying to show my team — I’m not too good to do anything.”

Steve’s wife, Racquel, has also been an active part of the business since the beginning. She can often be found at their East location, passionately decorating cakes. She also steps in during the school year when many of their employees have to cut down on hours.

Flavors of Friendship

So, what’s the next chapter of Steve’s entrepreneurial journey?

After recently wrapping up renovations for their Southwest location, Steve plans to dive into the busy summer months that are just around the corner. In the near year or so, he’ll be gearing up for the renovation of his East location as well. But for now, he’s savoring the moment and enjoying the relationships he’s built with a community he loves.

“I’m grateful and thankful for the support this community has shown us,” said Steve. “It makes my day when an employee who worked for me in high school comes back years later with their kids and shows pride in the fact that they used to work here. Or a customer comes in and tells me stories about riding their bike to the store when they were kids. It’s the relationships that really keep me going.”