Mohegan Tribe To Open Jersey Mike's Restaurants In R.I., Worcester Area

Originally Published at Hartford Courant by Matthew Sturdevant

In its latest foray into the franchise restaurant business, the Mohegan Tribe announced Thursday it has rights to open 10 Jersey Mike's Subs in Rhode Island and Worcester County in Massachusetts.

Jersey Mike's first opened in 1956 and is now a chain of 1,300 restaurants that sell hot and cold subs with "the juice," a mix of red-wine vinegar and olive oil. It was named the fastest-growing chain last year in Nation's Restaurant News.

The Mohegan Tribe, which owns Mohegan Sun casino, has invested in various franchise licenses, and even in renewable energy, as it looks to diversify and stabilize its sources of revenue. Gambling revenue has declined in recent years due to competition from new and expanded casinos and slot parlors in the Northeast.

In the spring of 2014, the tribe announced three new business ventures unrelated to the three casinos it operates — in Uncasville, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and Atlantic City, N.J.

The tribe has franchise agreements to open 15 locations of Smashburger, a Colorado burger chain; and 15 new locations of Pennsylvania-based Arooga's Grille House and Sports Bar. The first Smashburger opened in November in Waterford.

The tribe also bought a wood-pellet production plant owned by Pennington Seed Co. in Peebles, Ohio. The Mohegans expects to produce more than 130,000 tons of wood pellets annually through the tribe's subsidiary, Northeast Woods Products, LLC, which has plants in Ohio and Indiana.

"Through our business diversification efforts, we are focused on economic development for the tribe as well as our local communities," said Kevin "Red Eagle" Brown, chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council.

"Our new partnership with Jersey Mike's, an outstanding company that shares our commitment to being a good neighbor, helps continue our growth in the franchise restaurant industry in order to create jobs for the region and careers for tribal members," Brown said.

Jersey Mike's President Hoyt Jones said in a statement: "The Mohegan Tribe is completely aligned with our core values to make a difference in someone's life and we are excited to welcome the tribe to the Jersey Mike's family. This partnership is an important step in our strategy to expand and build brand awareness in New England and we are actively looking for real estate in Rhode Island and the Worcester area."