Jersey Mike's hoagie shops seem to be opening everywhere.
In fact there are now more than 600 Jersey Mikes stores and the newest one just opened in South Jersey on Haddonfield Road in Cherry Hill.
Here's the way the way Jersey Mike's tells the story of their phenomenal success:
It started back in 1956, in this actual storefront location and was originally called Mike's Subs. Mike opened the small shop in the sea-side town of Point Pleasant, New Jersey. You have to remember that in 1956, there were very few franchise restaurants or hamburger chains. No chain pizza, chicken or taco restaurants, either. In 1956, proprietors or mom-and-pop businesses would open their stores in basic storefront locations like you see here. To survive and thrive, they had to offer exceptional quality products, coupled with unparalleled service. In 1956, Mike was unique in that the product he was offering was a relatively new item in American society – the submarine sandwich.
Mike also benefited from the geographic location of his store. Point Pleasant, New Jersey is centrally located in the state on the legendary Jersey Shore. It is approximately 1 hour south of New York City, 1 hour east of Philadelphia, and about 3 hours north of Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C. For over a century, the people that lived and worked in these metropolitan areas would flock to Point Pleasant to experience the sun, surf, sand, boardwalk, salt water taffy, and all the treasures that made up the legendary Jersey Shore experience. Mike capitalized on the influx of vacationers, visitors and local residents by offering them his unique new product – submarine sandwiches. But what really differentiated his restaurant was the experience he gave his customers. Recognizing them by name, and knowing the sandwich they were going to order, because of their frequent visits. People would line up throughout the summer to buy the sub sandwiches that Mike was selling, and to enjoy the experience of coming into his shop. For over half a decade, he built the business into a thriving landmark, and was a pioneer of the authentic subs sandwich.
In 1972, Peter Cancro was a high school student in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. He began working at Mike's Subs at the age of 14. Peter loved working at Mike's. He loved authentic submarine sandwiches. But even more, Peter loved working behind the counter, interacting and talking with the customers. He liked learning about where they were from and their summer vacation experiences. He took pride in knowing which authentic sub sandwich his loyal customer would order as they entered the store. When Peter was a senior in high school, he overheard the owner of Mike's Subs discussing selling the business. He thought to himself, "I love the food, I love working in the store, maybe I'll buy the shop." Pretty ambitious for a 17 year old kid. Peter approached his football coach and said "Hey coach, Mike's Sub shop is for sale, and I'm interested in buying it. Can you help me out?" It didn't hurt that his football coach was also a banker. The football coach came through for Peter, and backed his loan. So, at the tender age of 17 – before he was legally able to slice a sub – Peter Cancro became the owner and proprietor of Mike's Subs
Today, Peter Cancro is CEO of Jersey Mike's Franchise Systems Inc., overseeing more than 600 locations open and under development. Despite the title, Peter still jumps behind the counter to test his skills and demonstrate his passion for the product and the customer. He tries to instill that passion in every store he enters and with every franchisee he meets.
Now, the authentic taste – served Mike's Way™ with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, oil, vinegar and spices – is available nationwide. The secret? Everything about Jersey Mike’s is high quality. The certified Angus Beef top rounds are trimmed and cooked right in the store. The meats and cheeses are all top-quality premium brands. The bread is fresh-baked each day on the premises. And of course, everything’s prepared right in front of you. It’s what makes Jersey Mike’s boast that it has the most authentic tasting submarine sandwich available. And it’s a tradition of quality Mike's says they'll never outgrow.Well, we visited the newest Jersey Mike's and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The menu is appealing. The prices are reasonable. The hoagies and the cheese steak sandwiches are plentiful and tasty. And every member of the staff goes out of his or her way to make your visit satisfying.
In addition to all that the Jersey Mike's stores have a tradition of giving back to the community. The newest store is dedicating its grand opening to Cherry Hill High School West and is busy raising funds for that purpose. It's an admirable endeavor.
Photos copyright 2013 by Dan Cirucci.