University alumnus Steve Farmer said he knew early in his college career he wanted the freedom of owning his own business. Now years later his one of a kind store brings in the young and the old to enjoy their favorite treats.
Farmer opened up the Tyler location of Rocket Fizz in August of 2013. The store is at Broadway and Loop 323 next to Hastings. It is one of two locations in Texas.
Rocket Fizz is a one-stop-shop full of thousands of bottled soda pops and candies from all over America, according to their website.
The store also includes retro and gag gifts, concert posters, movie posters and tin signs.
Farmer grew up in Dallas, and attended Lake Highlands High School.
“My parents suggested I come to Tyler and go to TJC,” Farmer said. “We came out here and visited and I thought, ‘I could do this.’”
Farmer graduated from Tyler Junior College with an associate’s degree in business administration. He then transferred to the University to pursue a degree in management.
“During my time at UT Tyler, [I learned] that college is there to prep you for working for someone else and I had the revelation that I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life,” Farmer said. “I couldn’t fly like that and I thought to myself that can’t be the only way to do things.”
Farmer graduated from the University in 2006 and immediately began the work to start his first business as an independent wholesaler of collision parts, he said.
“Within two weeks, I had started my own business with $50 and built it up and ran it for almost three years,” Farmer said.
Farmer said he didn’t have a truck when he first started the business. He remembers having to fold down the seats in his Ford Mustang when making the deliveries of parts from Dallas to Tyler.
“[When] I was on the road, I remember having the feeling on the road being like ‘this is what I do now’ and having that freedom I was like I could work as hard as I want or as little as I want,” Farmer said. “I can either be a failure or I can be a total success and it’s all based on how hard I do this on my own.”
Farmer managed the wholesale operation for three years before selling the business.
After a couple of months of not knowing where he wanted his career to go, Farmer said he got a call from a friend that changed his life. He invited him on a road trip to Pasadena, Cali. that he could not pass up.
While his friend was busy during the day, Farmer said he enjoyed riding his bike around the city sightseeing. A few blocks from the route of the Pasadena Rose Parade, Farmer stumbled into an interesting store called Rocket Fizz.
“I walked in there and said ‘This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen’...and then it totally just kicked me in the face and I knew this is it, this is what I want to do,” Farmer said.
He flew to Los Angeles soon after returning and visited a few stores and said he fell in love with the company.
“A buddy and I then began to put together a business plan which was one of the important things I did learn at UT Tyler and I remember saying ‘This is really weird man, I used to do these for a grade and now it’s for real,’” Farmer said.
He said the hardest thing to overcome to be able to open Rocket Fizz was getting a bank to finance the business endeavor.
“My [business] partner and I split ways... and I went on my own and I kept trying it and put it all together I just kept pushing and plugging,” Farmer said.
After the first Rocket Fizz location opened up in Houston the owners knew he had been trying to open a location and they asked him to manage it. Farmer managed the location for 10-months to gain management experience. After that time, he was put in contact with a non-profit state lender who was ready to help finance the Tyler location, Farmer said.
“It was two and a half years of just hearing no and I just stuck with it because not only did I believe in this concept, I believed in myself,” Farmer said. “I knew [Rocket Fizz] was a winner and the city of Tyler had never seen anything like this.”
Farmer advises University students who may be interested in becoming an entrepreneur like him to use their education as the foundation.
“Go find the way to happiness in life. Even if you fail, and I have before, at least you had the guts to go for it,” Farmer said. “But find something you love doing, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
However, Farmer does agree that owning and running a business isn’t for everyone. Farmer said some people are more comfortable with the security of the eight-hour workday and that some people need to be told what to do.
Another thing Farmer stresses for University students is to take advantage of every opportunity.
“Use your time at UT to expand your mind and learn whatever you want to, Farmer said. “Don’t get caught up in your post-college life and the path of how to get there. Have fun, you’re paying for it, so might as well.”
Farmer said he chose Tyler because it is such a booming city that doesn’t have anything similar in the market. He said he wants Rocket Fizz to truly be a place for people young and old to hang out.
“I’ve been hearing since I moved here in ‘99 how there’s nothing to do here in town, there’s nowhere to go or hang out,” Farmer said. “It is just good clean fun just hanging out drinking soda pop and eating some candy. But we needed something like this here in town.”
Even though Rocket Fizz is a nationwide franchise with 35 stores over the U.S., Farmer said he loves that the company gives owners independence to change up the store and really make it one of a kind.
“Everyday something fascinates me whether it’s the kids that you hear that come in here for the first time and you see that wow factor or even the adults when they see things for the first time or things they haven’t seen in years,” Farmer said.
Future of Rocket Fizz
Farmer said in years to come he would love to own more Rocket Fizz locations in key growing areas in Texas. He said some locations he’s interested in would be Longview and some in the Dallas area.
Rocket Fizz is hosting a Halloween party on Saturday. Farmer said they will have musicians Channel 8 and Lauren Alexander to perform.
Patrick Saikin, a history graduate student, is a vocalist and guitarist for Channel 8. Saikin said he is excited about performing at the event Saturday.
“Rocket Fizz offers students the warmth and comfort some may feel is missing after leaving home,” Saikin said. “Visiting the store is like your favorite home cooked meal being served by Fred [Mr.] Rogers.”
The event will also host a costume contest and a few games for the children. Halloween Harvey from CBS19’s channel MeTV will be emceeing the event. The best contest winners will receive prizes that include passes to Terror Nights, gift cards and more.
The event begins at 1 p.m. and will continue throughout the night.