Jersey Mike's celebrates 25 years in Kingsport
Originally Published at Kingsport Times News
Jersey Mike’s in the Greenacres Shopping Center has been serving the same high-quality, fresh sandwiches since it became the parent company’s first franchise store in 1987.
The first store, called Mike’s Subs, opened in 1956 in the seaside town of Point Pleasant, N.J. Mike was a pioneer in the submarine sandwich business, and capitalized on the influx of vacationers and visitors to the Jersey Shore.
Peter Cancro grew up in Point Pleasant and started working at Mike’s Subs when he was 14. He loved working there and soon came to personally know the customers and their personal favorites - a trait ingrained by the owner of Mike’s Subs. When he was 17, Peter overheard the owner discussing selling the business. Cancro loved the business and decided to try and buy Mike’s Subs. He sought the help of his football coach, who was also a local banker, to obtain a loan to purchase the sub shop. At the young age of 17, before he could legally "slice" a sub in New Jersey, Cancro became the store’s owner.
Along the way, Cancro met Kingsport native Linda Hudson, whom he later married.
Return vacationers and visitors were always telling Cancro they would love to have a Mike’s Sub in their hometown. With this knowledge in hand, Hudson’s brother, James, agreed to become one of the first franchisees and opened Kingsport’s first Jersey Mike's in the Greenacres Shopping Center in 1987. The name of the shop had been changed to capture the authenticity of where the original sub was born. Hudson later opened two Jersey Mike’s locations in Johnson City.
In 2001, Hudson decided to sell his Kingsport locations. And as luck would have it, that was about the same time that Richard Bewley decided that Jersey Mike's was exactly the type of business he wanted to enter into.
"Getting Jersey Mike’s was just pure luck for me," Bewley said. "Once I got out of college, I knew that I wanted to start a small business, and I just happened to hear that Jimmy was selling. He had just listed it with a business broker, the same day I went in to talk to (the broker). If it had been a day later, I probably would not have gotten the business."
Throughout Jersey Mike’s 56-year history, Bewley said the stores have remained successful because they have remained true to Mike's Subs original concept - providing a high quality, fresh sandwich to customers. To make sure of it, Bewley arrives at his Greenacres' sub shop bright and early every morning to bake bread, slice vegetables and prepare for the day ahead.
"All of our meats are choice cuts. We even roast our own top-grade beef for the sandwiches. Bread is baked daily, and all the toppings are fresh," he stressed.
And while customers admittedly pay a little more for a Jersey Mike’s sub, Bewley believes that most would agree it's worth it.
"If you paid for our sandwich by the pound, compared to other sub chains, you are getting a better deal for your money," he said.
The Original Italian, piled high with provolone, ham, prosciuttini, cappaculo, salami and pepperoni, is one of the store’s biggest sellers. And most customers want it served "Mike’s Way" with lettuce, tomato, onions, oil and vinegar, and a sprinkling of oregano. Jersey Mike’s Famous Philly is a close second. The Philly sandwich is a fresh rib-eye steak grilled and chopped up, and made fresh to order. Jersey Mike’s Tuna Fish is probably the only one in town made with Albacore tuna and, is considered by many, to be the best tuna fish sandwich around.
As with all Jersey Mike’s stores, the Greenacres location is keen on community involvement. Jersey Mike’s corporate supports many national charities, and each franchise location is encouraged to do the same in their locale. That's perfectly fine with Bewley, whose roots are right here in Kingsport. His brother, Ryan, works alongside him at the Greenacres' location in marketing and delivery services. His wife, Donna; his father, Jerry; and his brother, Robert, are all long-time Eastman employees.
Dine-in customers are now greeted in a newly-renovated space at the Greenacres location, which re-opened Jan. 27 after being completely gutted and remodeled. Along with in-store dining and take-out, Jersey Mike’s is also available for catering. The shop also regularly delivers to local businesses during lunchtime, and is working to increase deliveries to the gates at Eastman. For those in a rush, Jersey Mike’s is now available for online ordering at www.jerseymikes.com. You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook for specials. The store is located at 1127 B - N. Eastman Rd, in the Greenacres Shopping Center. Or you can call 423-378-4533.