Delectable Sandwich Franchise Opens In The Villages
THE VILLAGES (Friday, April 14, 2006) - One bite into a New York Steamer sandwich was a life-altering moment for Rob Straub.
With 20 years of experience owning seafood restaurants in Orlando, Straub was in awe the first time he visited Firehouse Subs and savored the taste of the New York Steamer made with thick piles of corned beef brisket, pastrami and provolone cheese.
He knew from that first mouthful that he wanted to open a Firehouse Subs sandwich shop, and he also knew of a perfect location — right here in The Villages.
Firehouse Subs is located off of U.S. Highway 27/441, in the shopping strip adjacent to Bealls and Lowe's; hours of operation are 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.
"When I sold out my interest in the seafood restaurants three years ago, I was looking for something else to do," Straub said. "I was looking at the fast/casual market."
He checked out a few sandwich shops, but nothing appealed to him. Then a friend told him to try Firehouse Subs, which two firemen in Jacksonville started in 1994.
"I ate the 'New York Steamer' and that was it," Straub said. "I thought, 'I've got to be a part of this.'"
He also loves Firehouse Subs' other specialty sandwiches, including the Hook & Ladder, made with smoked turkey, Virginia ham and Monterey Jack cheese, and the Engineer sandwich featuring smoked turkey and saut/ed mushrooms, which can be made into a "F.I.," short for "fully involved," sandwich and topped with mayonnaise, mustard, lettuce, tomato, onion and a Kosher dill.
"We offer a lot more meat, and the value is good for what you get," he said. "We steam the meat and cheese separately from the bread, and then we have to put it together."
Straub and his business partner, Ahmed El-Hawary, own the restaurant here, as well as a few Firehouse Subs shops in Orlando.
"Firehouse Subs is a terrific product, and the best product out there," said Straub, who proudly noted that the chain is gaining popularity in the southeast and expanding north and west, too.
"I went with them because I thought it was the best thing going," Straub said. "The quality of the product is excellent, and then I looked at the firehouse theme and thought it was a good marketing tool."
Diners are greeted with hearty words: "Welcome to firehouse!"
"It's part of our firehouse culture here," Straub said of the sandwich shop that is decorated with firehouse decor and photographs of firefighters.
The new shop has garnered raves from customers since its soft opening last week, and Straub says Firehouse Subs is ready for the public.
"We hear from New York people who say, 'Oh, subs with a New York name in it, I've got to try it,'" Straub said. "Then, they'll say, 'Oh, this is terrific!'"
The owner is thrilled to have opened here.
"We love this area, especially the people here," Straub said. "The people here are absolutely the greatest people I have ever met. It's been wonderful, and this is a terrific territory because we are meeting people from all over the country."
Straub admits he is so impressed with The Villages that he wants to live in this area, and he also has persuaded his parents, Robert and Gloria, to consider becoming residents, too.
"We're both hunting for real estate, and we are meeting our real estate agent," he said. "We're having so much fun here, and The Villages has thought of everything. It's terrific."
The elder Straubs are enjoying the area, and also have become Firehouse Subs lovers.
"Oh, I love the Veggie Sub; it is really good," Gloria said of the sandwich made with saut/ed mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, mustard, Italian dressing and provolone, Monterey and American cheese.
Her husband believes Firehouse Subs' sandwiches are tops.
"They're just fantastic," Robert said.
Firehouse Subs has 19 employees, and Rob Straub says there is room for more to join the firehouse crew. The sandwich shop can be reached by calling 430-2045.