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Subway: A sandwich and a smile

SOLON– Now appearing in Solon; fresh food and fast, friendly service.
Tom Bueckers has opened a new Subway restaurant in Solon, between Jo’s Roadhouse and Fitzpatrick Family Chiropractic in Jordan Creek Plaza on Windflower Lane. The doors opened only recently, on Friday, Sept. 2, and already, business has been booming.
“It’s been excellent,” said Bueckers. “Better than expectations.”
He gives a lot of credit to the school lunch crowd.
“The school must serve lunch between 11 and noon, because that seems to be our busiest time,” he said with a smile.
Actually, the entire Subway corporation places importance on local schools when considering where to locate new franchises. In addition to looking at a town’s population and overall size, Subway looks at recent growth trends, traffic counts and average household wages, too.
“Solon is a natural fit for a Subway,” said Bueckers. “It has strong schools, a strong community, they are building new facilities here and the lake area is nearby. It all equals out to being the right place for a successful business.”
And Bueckers is a natural fit for business, as well. Solon’s new Subway is the fourth store he has opened since 2008; he currently owns two restaurants in Cedar Rapids and the Subway shop located adjacent to the ND Express convenience store on North Dodge Street in Iowa City.
Bueckers and his wife live with their four children near Bertram. Originally from Minnesota, Bueckers is a graduate of the University of North Dakota, where he earned a degree in computer science. He and his wife both worked at Rockwell Collins for about five years before his true calling heralded from the business world.
“My mother and father owned a grocery store for 33 years,” said Bueckers. “I grew up in a small business family, and it taught me a good work ethic. I worked in their store from the time I could reach the shelves.”
Bueckers began searching for an opportunity to purchase a franchise and open his own business. Subway turned out to be an ideal business model for Bueckers.
“I like that it’s a healthy alternative,” he said. “The company is loyal to its owners, and is great about helping owners run their businesses well, without having to worry about some of the day-to-day decisions like advertising and menus and things like that.”
Having relatives who could show him the ropes of business ownership has also been a great help, Bueckers said; two of his brothers-in-law own Subway franchises, and his sister-in-law is a Certified Public Accountant, so he was able to draw upon their expertise and knowledge to help kick-start his own restaurants.
He also said he’s realized a blessing in another family– not his own– that has been key to his success. John and Kim Jackson, their son Dallas and daughter Erin have worked for Bueckers in his Iowa City store. As time progressed, they helped get his new stores up and running as well.
“John has a lot of restaurant experience, and he has been a huge asset to growing my business. His wife, Kim, knows most of the customers by name. They create a nice atmosphere for customers and they have made business ownership very smooth for me. They help fill in the gaps so I don’t have to worry about what goes on when I’m not around.”
Dallas Jackson will serve as manager in the new Solon location, while his sister Erin continues to manage the North Dodge restaurant. In its inaugural days, John was also on hand in Solon.
“It’s sort of a hobby,” said John, a modest self-assessment after having had his own business venture for 25 years. “I come from a restaurant background, and I’m innately organized individual at work. The key is loving what you do and enjoying the customers who come in.”
It’s important to care about the community, as well. John noted that Bueckers is willing to help local clubs and organizations with fundraising projects.
“Tom is a generous fellow,” he said. “That’s just part of what we want to do here in Solon.”
Both Bueckers and John Jackson acknowledged there are not a lot of opportunities to be expressly unique in a franchise operation; there are 25,000 Subways across the nation and the décor, menu and product is basically the same in every one. However, there are ways to make your Subway stand out from the crowd.
“We don’t have much to offer but a sandwich and a smile,” said John, “but my philosophy is that the way we run our restaurants is a phenomenon. We are fast, organized, friendly and upbeat.”
In Solon, John has already received wonderful feedback from people who notice the efforts of himself and the other employees.
“A bus came in on the weekend with two soccer teams,” said John. “There were about 60 people, and we got them in and out in 30 minutes. The coach said whenever the team stops at a Subway, they usually plan to be there an hour. He said in 11 years, they have never been in and out of a Subway in less than that.”
It’s due to the experience of the crew, said Bueckers, and the way they put customers first.
“Success depends on customer service,” he said. “We put out good quality food, with fresh bread that is baked correctly. We are fast, and the restaurant is clean and taken care of. People can tell when they are served by someone who cares what’s going on.”
In addition, Subway continues to be an affordable, nutritious choice over other fast food. In October, all Subways will once again be offering $5 specials on all their foot-long subs– beyond the regular $5 menu– and the restaurant now serves full breakfasts, including breakfast sandwiches, coffee and a new yogurt parfait.
“Subway just proves you can be competitive and value-driven in the quick serve industry,” said Bueckers.
Yet you can still be a standout in an industry with a whole lot of competition.
“A lot of good intentions of corporate training get lost in translation, so we have to have a love for what we do in order to hold those good intentions together,” said John.
That, and maybe a little mayo.