By Bonnie Williamson
It all started about seven years ago when the Johnston family stopped at a Jersey Mike’s Subs in Hagerstown, Maryland.
“We just fell in love,” says Kenda. “Jersey Mike’s is a company that makes great subs, but also gives back so much to the community. My husband Mark and I thought it would be a terrific idea to open up our own Jersey Mike’s.”
So, on November 7 of this year, Mark and Kenda, along with their daughters Michaela and Alexis, officially opened a Jersey Mike’s at 245 Retail Common Parkway C-16A, Martinsburg, West Virginia.
Following the Jersey Mike’s culture of giving back to the community, during the restaurant’s grand opening, thousands of free sub cards were given to local residents and businesses, then for each free sub card redeemed $2 was donated to the Johnston’s favorite charity, the Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. Kenda says more than $3,000 was donated from the event. In March next year when the Day of Giving takes place, all of one day’s sales will be donated to their favorite charity.
The restaurant business is new to Kenda and Mark, who have been independent insurance agents for more than a decade. Kenda says in some ways running Jersey Mike’s is a little easier than the insurance business.
Still, there’s little to complain about at Jersey Mike’s. Customers can see the making of sandwiches they’ve ordered right in front of them. Kenda says all ingredients are fresh every day.
“We slice the deli meats fresh for every order. The roast beef is tied, trimmed, and roasted in store. The bread is baked fresh daily. It’s all done in-house,” Kenda says.
A special attraction, which adds to the unique flavor of the subs Jersey Mike’s is famous for, is asking to have a sub made, “Mike’s way.” This delicious mixture of red wine vinegar, an olive oil blend, onion, lettuce, tomatoes and spices all combined gives any sub an added boost of flavor.
Customers can order a variety of sizes of subs from mini, to regular, to giant, which is 14 inches long. Some of the favorites at Jersey Mike’s include the Original Italian cold sub, consisting of provolone cheese, ham, prosciuttini, cappacuolo, salami, and pepperoni; and the Big Kahuna Cheese Steak hot sub, tender beef steak with grilled onions, peppers, mushrooms, jalapeños, and melted white American cheese. Or there’s the Club Supreme, roast beef, turkey, Swiss cheese, and bacon, and mayonnaise; and another choice the Super Sub of provolone, ham, prosciuttini, and cappacuolo.
Jersey Mike’s offers hot and cold subs, and wraps like the Buffalo Chicken Wrap, made of grilled sliced chicken breast covered in Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, with melted white American cheese, lettuce, tomato and blue cheese dressing and a Grilled Veggie Wrap with green bell peppers and onions, melted Swiss and provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato and home-style ranch dressing. Catering is also available, which includes subs, salads, complete with plates, utensils and napkins and fresh baked cookies.
Kenda says even lunch boxes can be ordered, which feature a sub or wrap, chips, cookies and a drink. Jersey Mike’s has seating for 32 people if customers choose to relax onsite.
Jersey Mike’s is a very unusual name for a restaurant located in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, not exactly around the block from New Jersey, but Kenda says the franchise even has restaurants in Australia.
The subs have a definite link to the Jersey Shore, however. Mike’s Way adds that tasty oregano to subs and wraps, reminiscent of so many dishes served in the New York/New Jersey area. Maps of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, can be found in Jersey Mike’s restaurants, a fitting tribute to the franchise’s roots.
“The business was originally started by a 17-year-old boy,” Kenda says.
That young man was Peter Cancro, a student at Point Pleasant High School. Cancro’s inspiration came from a man named Mike who opened Mike’s Subs in that small seaside town of Point Pleasant back in 1956. At that time, there weren’t many franchise restaurants, hamburger chains, pizza, chicken or taco restaurants. Mike also featured a new item to American pallets, the submarine sandwich. Point Pleasant was also a good location for the venture. This Jersey Shore town isn’t far from New York City, Philadelphia, parts of Maryland and Delaware and Washington, DC. People in these metropolitan areas have flocked to the Jersey Shore for decades. Vacationers and tourists frequented Mike’s because they knew the name and those submarine sandwiches.
For more than 50 years, Mike built the business into a thriving landmark, and was a pioneer of the authentic subs sandwich. In 1971, Cancro began working at Mike’s Subs at the age of 14. He enjoyed getting to know the customers and what kind of subs they always ordered. When Cancro was a senior in high school he learned that Mike’s was going up for sale. He approached his football coach, who was also a banker, asking if the coach would help him out. He then became owner and proprietor of Mike’s Subs.
He went on to open a couple more outlets of Mike’s Subs. The reputation of Mike’s Subs continued to grow. Cancro heard customers saying they would miss his subs during the winter. More and more asked for a Mike’s Subs for their neighborhoods.
In 1987, Cancro began franchising. He changed the name from Mike’s Subs to Jersey Mike’s Subs to honor where that authentic sub sandwich was born.
Cancro is now the CEO of Jersey Mike’s Franchise Systems with more than 1,500 locations open or under development.
“There’s no question that the restaurant business is tough, but working at Jersey Mike’s is worth it,” she says.
Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen helped make the Jersey Shore famous. In his song “Jersey Girl”, he says, “Across the river to the Jersey side, Take my baby to the carnival, And I’ll take her on all the rides, ’cause down the shore everything’s all right.
It’s all right at Jersey Mike’s, too. So for a taste of the Jersey Shore, a sub like you’ve never had before, try Jersey Mike’s Subs.
For more information, call 681-247-2418, go to Facebook or the website at www.jerseymikes.com.