ICSC: Firehouse Subs eyes 60-store expansion in NYC

Florida sandwich shop mulling World Trade Center retail mall location

From left: Greg Delks, Ever Santana and John Namey of Firehouse Subs, and a rendering of the WTC retail space
From left: Greg Delks, Ever Santana and John Namey of Firehouse Subs, and a rendering of the WTC retail space

A 19-year-old Florida sandwich chain is on a national expansion drive and plans to open 60 stores in New York City over the next 10 years, potentially including one at the under-construction retail mall at the World Trade Center.

Firehouse Subs now has more than 600 locations across the United States and has targeted opening as many as 25 stores in Manhattan over the next decade, company executives told The Real Deal during an interview at the company’s booth at the International Council of Shopping Center‘s RECon 2013, held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The show closes today.

“We do have a potential location [at the World Trade Center site], although the building will not be under construction until 2014,” said Ever Santana, area representative for Firehouse Subs. “We are looking aggressively in the Downtown area.”

Despite the company’s close relationship with firefighters — it was founded in 1994 by a pair of firefighter brothers in Jacksonville, Fla., and donates money to fire houses — it does not have specific plans to open locations in the Rockaways or Staten Island that are closely associated with those who battle fires.

“We are not targeting them,” John Namey, director of real estate, said, but instead was focusing on what would be the best areas from a traditional restaurant point of view.

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“One place I would like to Develop Is On Atlantic Avenue,” near the Barclays Center, Santana said.

Firehouse provides table service, as opposed to traditional fast food restaurants in which the diner orders and waits for the food while standing in line.

The company follows a franchise formula, and is currently talking with about 10 potential franchisees, including local developers. Santana declined to identify any of those firms.

The company, under the franchise formula, does not lease the store locations itself, although it has completed a study of the city where it has identified 60 general locations where it wants to site stores.

The next step for the firm is to sign up franchisees who will then lease the store space. Since Manhattan is such a difficult leasing market, Firehouse expects the first franchisees will be in Brooklyn and Queens. The company expects about 20 stores to open in Manhattan, with the balance in the other boroughs, although principally in Brooklyn and Queens.

In Manhattan, Santana expected approximately four or five franchisee would each operate five to 15 stores, whereas in the outer boroughs, each franchisee would probably have a smaller collection of between five to 10 stores.