'Hot Cereal Man' calendar is a Chicago oatmeal guy's passion

  • Bill Ehrlich is three years into making a calendar all based around ... oatmeal.
Bill Ehrlich is three years into making a calendar all based around ... oatmeal. (Bill Ehrlich )
November 08, 2013|By Mick Swasko, @swasko | RedEye

It’s just like a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit calendar. Except instead of bikini clad models, it’s photos of a 26-year-old Chicagoan and some friends posing with a bowl of oatmeal.

It started as a joke about hot cereal in his friends mother’s kitchen. Now it’s a 13-month calendar Bill Ehrlich, 26, of Old Town, has sold to customers around the country.

“It all started one chilly fall morning as the seasons began to change, I had a little bit of a sore throat and although it was not my usual routine at the time, I decided to make myself a bowl of hot oatmeal for breakfast,” Ehrlich explains on the Kickstarter page he’s using to produce next year’s edition of the calendar. “At this point everything changed.”

The 2011 switch from cold to hot cereal created a joke that stuck in his head.

“I’m a hot … cereal man,” he quipped.

After the joke translated with some friends while visiting Chicago, he’s been making a calendar every year, each annual edition selling more copies. This year, Ehrlich, his volunteer models and oatmeal mark 13-months of the year in a “period piece,” representing the “Hot Cereal Man” throughout history. January is the 1890s, with a dapper model and his oatmeal in front of a steam engine. The 1980s feature a suspender-strapped dude on an enormous cell phone. He  even recruited a model from out of state that jokingly advertised himself as wanting to start a career as an “oatmeal model” to pose for the calendar.  

“It’s a highlighting and appreciating of the everyman,” he said. “In our culture of superstardom today, that man is forgotten, and that’s a shame.”

The first edition was self-funded, and produced about 75 copies, mostly sold to family and friends. Last year, he sold more with the help of crowdfunding the project, seeing demand grow beyond acquaintances. For 2014, he hopes to make as many as 200 $15 calendars, and is looking to raise $2,000 on Kickstarter to cover his costs.

“The real joy is when someone I don’t know at all goes ahead and orders one,” he said. “Maybe it’s because they like the cereal, maybe it’s because they like the concept.”

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