DeKalb County-area veterans find purpose as entrepreneurs

DeKalb County-area veteran business owners talk about finding a niche in their respective industries

Thomas Inboden, U.S. Army veteran and owner of Inboden’s Gourmet Meat and Specialty Foods in DeKalb, carries out some sausages Tuesday Sept. 19, 2023, at his store. Inboden talked about how his service in the Army helped prepare him to become a successful business owner after taking over from his father Ocie O. Inboden.

DeKALB – Finding a new path in returning to civilian life can be tricky for service members.

A military career may afford an individual access to funding, travel and education that they otherwise might not have had access to.

So much so that service members may come to expect a certain standard of living.

Class VI

Class VI wine bar owner Thomas Sherman, a U.S. Army and Illinois National Guard veteran, knows all about the sacrifices of active duty firsthand. But he said he made the most of his experience.

“I loved the work that we did in Ukraine helping train the Ukrainian military,” Sherman said. “Training them to train themselves, that was great. I loved working with all the soldiers that I worked with and helping guide careers. A major plus for me was assisting soldiers.”

Sherman’s time in the service has taken him to places all around the world, including Iraq, South Korea and Egypt.

After finishing his deployment to Ukraine in October 2022, Sherman began charting his next move: to open Class VI wine bar in the former Eduardo’s Mexican Restaurant building at 214 E. Lincoln Highway.

Sherman said it didn’t take long to establish his next venture.

In May, Class VI joined the restaurant and bar scene in downtown DeKalb.

“There were contracting opportunities to go overseas again that I could have pursued, but the family had had enough of me being gone,” Sherman said. “My wife had put up with so much.”

Class VI now offers a wide selection of wines, from Zardetto Prosecco Brut and Dibon Cava Brut to Dry Creek Chenin Blanc and Stella Moscato.

“I’ve always liked wine,” Sherman said. “Over there, [I] got exposed to more Eastern European-styled winemaking, which tends to be on the sweeter side than Georgian wine.”

At Class VI, wine tasting events could be in the works for patrons who frequent the establishment in the future.

Sherman said business has been going smoothly since he opened.

“DeKalb is discovering that I exist,” he said. “The Wine Club is doing well. I’m constantly seeing new people, which is good. I would love to see more repeat business. The retail sale lines are doing good.”

Thomas Inboden, U.S. Army veteran and owner of Inboden’s Gourmet Meat and Specialty Foods in DeKalb, holds a picture of one of his sons who also served as he talks Tuesday Sept. 19, 2023, at his store, about his time in the service and how it prepared him to be a successful business owner and family man.


Elsewhere in DeKalb, Thomas Inboden runs Inboden’s Gourmet Meat and Specialty Foods, 1106 N. First St.

Inboden said that being away from family while serving in the U.S. Army from 1970 to 1972 proved to be a challenge.

He was based out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center. It’s there that Inboden was assigned duties as part of the second psychological operations group.

“Your parents don’t drive down to an army base to visit you like they do at college,” Inboden said. “You could be out of the country, especially with a place like that. The JFK Center, you did a lot of [temporary duty assignments.] … People would go to Africa, they would go to South America, they would go all over because they were trainers, military assistance [and] people on missions.

“People would not come down and visit you. It wasn’t like you were in college. You might not see them for a year. It wasn’t uncommon. So I think that was the most difficult part. But when you came home, they treated you like royalty. They treated you well.”

Inboden said he’s proud of his service experience and the sense of integrity it has instilled in him.

“I was a good solider, and they put me in positions of trust,” he said.

Thomas Inboden, U.S. Army veteran and owner of Inboden’s Gourmet Meat and Specialty Foods in DeKalb, talks Tuesday Sept. 19, 2023, at his store, about his time in the service and how it prepared him to be a successful business owner.

It wasn’t until 1972 that Inboden first came on board as a working partner at Inboden’s.

He said he began taking on a greater leadership role within the company after his father died.

“The path was already set for me,” Inboden said. “I always wanted to do this. I’d always had an interest in this. I knew when I was 16 years old that I was as good as guys that were 45 years old. I felt confident.”

Inboden said he is pleased with how business is faring at the meat market.

“Things are going forward,” he said. “We still have a few supply issues, but they’re less and less. Business is pointing forward, and we’re doing good. But I wouldn’t want to last too long in an environment like COVID.”

Rapid Biz Solutions

Sycamore resident and U.S. Army veteran Devon Buse runs the marketing company Rapid Biz Solutions.

“We basically help small-business owners out throughout the county,” Buse said. “We really like to draw in customers’ business for them.”

Devon Buse, a U.S. Army veteran, Northern Illinois University graduate and owner of Rapid Biz Solutions from Sycamore, Tuesday, Sept 12, 2023, in the Holmes Student Center at NIU.

Buse said he believes he’s found his niche in the marketing industry.

“I tried out various avenues and business types throughout the years that I served,” Buse said.

Buse was stationed in Fort Hood, serving from 2013 to 2017. He said his service experience taught him that hard work and perseverance pays off.

Buse also is the creator of Local Foodie Nation and Eat and Shop DeKalb County Local, two social media pages devoted to promoting DeKalb County-area restaurants, bars and other regional initiatives.

Buse said business is faring well for him and all his entrepreneurial efforts.

“It’s going pretty decent,” Buse said. “I’m working on a lot of projects right now.”

Buse credits the success he’s had to his drive and passion for what he does.

“It does take time,” he said. “It does take effort to get it going. But once you get it going, it makes up for it.”

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