MOUNT VERNON – A submarine sandwich chain with nearly 2,000 locations worldwide will soon expand to Mount Vernon.
Jersey Mike's is set to fill the former Buckeye Philly Steaks storefront at 1421 Coshocton Ave. According to franchise co-owner Todd Hayes, the store is expected to open Dec. 18, pending renovation delays.
“We’re just excited. We’re very excited," Hayes said. "This will be a very large store. We have a brand-new look, as far as all our stores are currently being remodeled, and this store will have that new, fresh look. We’re ready to go, just waiting for construction to be completed."
Hayes, who lives near the Knox/Morrow county line, has spent the last three years working for Jersey Mike's in an operations capacity. He's helped open new stores, handle compliance reports and grow sales.
When he saw the opportunity recently to open his own shop, Hayes and his wife, Susan, jumped at the chance.
“My wife and I have always talked about opening one because I think it’s a very exciting company," Hayes said. "We live locally, we saw this opportunity, and we decided to open our own store.”
Jersey Mike's currently has 72 locations in Ohio, with the closest to Knox County being in Sunbury. The company is looking to add three locations in the coming months, according to its website: in Mount Vernon, Green, and St. Clairsville.
Jersey Mike's offers a variety of authentic Northeast-style subs (hot and cold), salads and fresh-baked cookies. It prides itself on freshness – all of its sandwiches feature local produce, meats and cheeses are sliced in-house, and bread is baked fresh daily – as well as its signature sauce, a red-wine vinegar and olive oil blend.
The company offers catering options for local schools and businesses. Customers are able to order online, via telephone, or through the company's mobile app.
"We bake our own bread, slice our own produce, and bake our own cookies. Everything is made to order ..." Hayes said. “Everything’s in front of you. Everything was prepared that morning.”
While freshness may make Jersey Mike's an attractive lunch option, Hayes said he was initially drawn to the company because of its attitude towards giving. Jersey Mike's has donated over $30 million to local charities since 2011, according to its website, through its annual "Day of Giving" (the last Wednesday of March) and other efforts.
The company has also raised funds for Wreaths Across America, a national non-profit that lays thousands of wreaths at veterans' graves during the Christmas season.
This philanthropic culture is driven by CEO Peter Cancro, Hayes said. When the COVID-19 pandemic began this spring, Hayes recalled Cancro donating to individual stores and telling them to "feed someone in need."
He also spearheaded increased donations to Feeding America, a national non-profit that represents more than 200 food banks nationwide, helping feed more than 46 million people through food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other community-based agencies.
“He’s very big into ‘giving to give.' That’s kind of his motto. He likes to help other people and really teaches the gift to give," Hayes said. "When COVID started, he drafted money into stores’ accounts and said, ‘Go out and feed someone in need.’ He has given back to longtime employees for their loyalty. He’s a really good-hearted person who’s doing things for the right reason."
Cancro is known nationally for his ambition. He began the business in 1971 at the age of 17, when he was a high school senior in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. He began franchising in 1987, and over the decades, Cancro built an empire. There are now 1,835 Jersey Mike's stores across the U.S., as well as locations in Canada and Australia.
Cancro's entrepreneurial spirit has led to the creation of a new program – the "Coach Rod Smith Ownership Program" – dedicated to promoting upward mobility within the company. The goal is to turn store leaders into managers, and managers into franchise owners.
Hayes said this program – and overall mindset – will be present at the new Mount Vernon location, where he expects to employ between 20 and 25 people.
"We want to create opportunities for other people, so that maybe someday they can do this," Hayes said. "The company’s actually trying to grow with existing employees. I started out as an employee, then became an owner. It would be exciting to see that, and we would like to see more of that.”
This is the most thrilling part about opening the store, Hayes said – not only providing meals, but also opportunities for local residents.
Hayes said he is excited to introduce Jersey Mike's to Mount Vernon, given his family's relationship with the city.
“Our company is going through so much growth right now, the opportunities are becoming smaller as we are starting to expand," he said. "It’s close to us – we go to Mount Vernon quite a bit, so it’s kind of like our hometown store. So that makes it more exciting than me opening one in downtown Columbus. There’s more of a local tie to us and our family.”
Jersey Mike's will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days per week. Check the store's Facebook page for updates on its grand opening.