The Times West Virginian

March 10, 2013

Firehouse Subs offers fresh, high-quality food

By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian

WHITE HALL — The new Firehouse Subs is attracting customers with its fresh, quality sandwiches and honoring local firefighters.

On March 4, the restaurant opened in White Hall at 9644 Mall Loop Road, in a new building near the Middletown Mall. Fairmont resident Nick Stuart and his father Ron Stuart, who lives in Canaan Valley, are the franchisees.

“It’s just awesome to see a good restaurant like this in this area, a new place to eat,” said Nick, who is also the general manager.

Firehouse Subs was started by brothers and firefighters Chris and Robin Sorensen in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1994. Since then, the fast casual chain has grown to 591 restaurants in 35 states.

Nick and Ron said what separates Firehouse Subs from other restaurants is the fact that it steams its meats and cheese, which really brings out those flavors. The meats are sliced daily, and everything is fresh.

Customers can choose from a variety of different hot sandwich options on toasted bread, including steak, ham, turkey, roast beef, chicken, corned beef, salami, pastrami and more.

Nick said two of the most popular items on the menu right now are the Smokehouse Beef and Cheddar Brisket, featuring USDA choice beef brisket smoked for 10 hours, and the Hook and Ladder Sub, which has turkey, ham and Monterey Jack cheese. The Firehouse Chili has also been a customer favorite.

Ron added that the New York Steamer Sub, with corned beef brisket, pastrami and provolone cheese, is doing really well, too.

In addition, the restaurant makes cold subs like tuna salad and white chicken salad, offers a Chief’s Salad, and carries sides such as chips, cookies and brownies. It also has a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine with 120 different drink flavors.

Firehouse Subs does catering as well, providing cold sandwiches using the same type of quality meat. Sub and salad platters and box lunches are available.

Inside the restaurant, pictures of the Fairmont Fire Department and the Valley Volunteer Fire Department decorate the walls. Those departments also donated pieces of firefighter equipment, such as axes, helmets and jackets, that are displayed, Nick said.

Firehouse Subs supports fire departments through its Public Safety Foundation. The restaurant sells empty 5-gallon pickle buckets for $2 each, and all of the proceeds go to the foundation to fund equipment like Jaws of Life and thermal imaging cameras. To request grant funding, fire departments can register online at www.firehousesubs.com.

“They give back to the community – that’s really important,” Ron said of the company.

The White Hall store also features a custom, hand-painted mural that portrays the Fairmont Fire Department’s Station 2 and a fire truck, a falcon for Fairmont State University’s mascot, and also country roads, mountains and the state sign.

About three and a half years ago, Nick began working part-time at Firehouse Subs in Lynchburg, Va., during college, and he later became a shift manager. His dad, who has a background in accounting and finance, had always wanted to operate a restaurant. They started looking into different franchises and were drawn to Firehouse Subs because they enjoyed the food, Nick said.

“If you don’t believe in the product, it will never be successful, and I love this food,” Ron said.

He and Nick found out about the plaza being developed near the mall and really liked the strong demographics of the Fairmont and White Hall area.

“It seemed like a great location,” Ron said.

He said the contractor started construction on the building around September of last year and completed it approximately the first of January. Then the interior build-out of Firehouse Subs took six or seven week.

Nick’s wife, Ali, had eight months of experience at Firehouse Subs in Lynchburg, where they met. Ali is the assistant manager of the White Hall location. Ron’s wife, Bonnie, is also involved in the family business on the administrative end.

Ron said it’s a great feeling to get the restaurant up and running after working on it for so long.

“To see it really functioning and selling subs is pretty rewarding,” he said.

Firehouse Subs stayed busy during its first week of business, and the staff of about 25 employees is doing very well, Ron said. Some customers have been coming for lunch every day and trying different subs each time.

“We’ve had a real good response from the community,” he said.

Many local firefighters, police officers and emergency medical technicians have been stopping by the restaurant. Nick commented that he enjoys seeing the memorabilia on the walls and seeing the local firefighters’ faces when they notice their own pictures displayed.

Currently, West Virginia’s only other Firehouse Subs location is in Charleston, but a few more sites will be coming to the state soon. In the future, Nick and Ron plan to open their second Firehouse Subs restaurant at Charles Pointe in Bridgeport.

Customers can stop by the White Hall store from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 304-816-3364.

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.