It’s not a Facebook rumor: Jersey Mike’s Subs, the famed franchise that opened its first restaurant in Point Pleasant, N.J., in 1956, and was the fastest-growing sandwich chain in 2022, will open its first Palm Coast restaurant in the Island Walk shopping center.
“The Jersey Mike’s Palm Coast location is expected to open in late November,” company spokesman Kyle Potvin first confirmed this morning, as did Drew Maider, who is the local franchise owner: the Palm Coast location will be his 14th.
Why Palm Coast? “Because we go from Fernandina [Beach] all the way down to Port Orange,” said the 42-year-old Florida native, who runs the franchise with co-owner Mark DeBiase. “It just naturally filled that gap, we have a store in Ormond Beach and we have a store in St. Augustine, and between the two of them kind of split, Palm Coast is right in the middle. So we get customers coming in from Palm Coast and they always say: When are you opening one in Palm Coast? It was just natural to fill that area because there wasn’t a store there yet. I’ve been to Hammock Beach a few times, it’s nice over there. It’s a great little community. One of my managers lived in Palm Coast before she moved over to the Tampa area for a couple of years. So it looked like a great spot. People are great. They’re already regular customers doing a pretty long drive and we wanted a shortcut for them.”
The Palm Coast location will employ 12 to 14 people, a mixture of part-time and full-time employees, with wages starting “anywhere between $12 to $15 an hour” for non-manager employees, Maider said. The company is working on getting benefits for its employees, too. The store will be open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., outside of holidays. Home and business delivery through such services as DoorDash and Uber Eats will be available.
The original Mike’s Subs was a seaside favorite among surfers and sunbathers, drawing on what became a cult following through that store alone until 1975, when Peter Cancro, a 17-year-old high school senior who’d worked there decided to buy the shop with his football coach and start opening new locations. The name became Jersey Mike’s, franchising started taking off in 1987. In 2021 alone, it opened 246 locations, with a current total hovering around 2,200 nationwide. It’s in every state. The sub shop makes its name on offerings like the Jersey Shore’s Favorite (provolone, ham, cappacuolo), the Super Sub (add prosciuttini), the Original Italian (add salami and pepperoni) and the Cancro Special (oven roasted top rounds and provolone, plus pepperoni).
Maider, who had a previous career as the Florida Department of Correction’s chief financial officer, had his conversion when he walked into a Jersey Mike’s in Jacksonville. “It was extremely unique,” he recalled. “There were only four stores in Jacksonville at the time when I looked into them. I love subs, and it was the first time I’d seen a meat slicer right on the counter slicing your sub to order. So that kind of blew my mind when I saw it. And then the product is amazing. I have a biased opinion but it’s a premium product. I could eat there every single day. It’s just great.”
The culture and the company’s philanthropy were other big selling points. The company devotes every March to a “Month of Giving,” collecting donations at the counter–much like Flagler County Tax Collector Suzanne Johnston, who does that almost every month for different local charities–for a chosen charity, then devoting every penny from every sale (not just profits) on the last Wednesday of the month to the charity. Maider has channeled donations to the USO in Jacksonville, in recognition of the city’s association with the military, though this year the company applied a nationwide drive in support of the Special Olympics.
The November opening in Palm Coast is tentative only because of by-now familiar supply chain issues. There’s been no hitches with the regulatory process in Palm Coast, but what used to take eight to 12 weeks to open a store is now taking more than 20 weeks, Maider said. “It’s one thing one week and another thing another week that there’s a supply chain issue with,” he said, “so you know like concrete is an issue right now, drywall is sometimes. It slows down construction process tremendously.”
Once the store opens there’ll likely be a first-week fundraiser with a local charity as the store introduces itself to the community, including sub cards handed out to local businesses, direct mailers to homes in a three to five-mile radius, and other methods of letting people know that Jersey Mike’s has arrived. “But the big thing is that we partner with the charity for our grand openings and try to raise some money for them for the first week or two depending on how the fundraiser goes,” Maider said.
It’s not a small matter to open a franchise. “The total initial investment necessary to begin operation of an individual Jersey Mike’s Franchised Restaurant ranges from $144,668 to $786,233,” the company’s 2021 Franchise Disclosure Document states. “This includes $38,000 that you must pay to Company.” The company provides for an “area development agreement,” enabling the franchisee to open between three to 10 stores, in exchange for $50,000 to $120,000 owed the company.
Once open, the stores seem to create their own momentum. Florida had 115 stores at the beginning of 2018, 122 at the beginning of the following year, and 137 at the start of 2020–and 157 by that year’s end, despite the pandemic (more than in New Jersey, where there were 76).
“It’s the sign on our door when you’re leaving,” Maider said. “It says ‘We hope you enjoyed your experience.’ We mean that. It’s not just we hope you enjoyed your chips, we hope you enjoyed your soda and sub, it’s We hope you enjoyed your experience. So it starts with the people that we have working in our stores, they all typically love to be there. It’s a great work environment. It has a lot of energy and we get to know our customers. We have regulars there that come in on certain days of the week and you get to know them you get to know their name, stuff about their personal life, to where we know their sub when they’re coming in, because they might get the same thing every single time. So you build this rapport with the community through having regulars and then also doing the charity work that we do in the community,” whether it’s feeding school sports teams or organizing drives with churches “So we want to make sure when they come in that we knock it out of the park and give them what they’re looking for.”