When you think “sub shop chain”, you probably think Subway (for the inexpensive footlong), Quiznos (for the free cookies), or Jimmy John’s (for the free smells). But Jacksonville’s own Firehouse Subs hours has been building a remarkable empire of the own, conquering 41 states and counting. Firehouse co-founder Robin Sorensen invited us out to a bonkers weekend at Bell Cross Ranch in Cascade, Montana to learn more about his company, and, in the process, we became grizzled ranchers. Here’s what we learned from the experience.
Firehouse Subs was founded by two former firefighter brothers in 1994, specifically Robin (left) and Chris (right) Sorensen. Their dad have also been a firefighter, and a lot of other Sorensen dudes before him — the family is honored on 200 years of professionally putting out flames. However the brothers decided to try something different, and left the biz to eventually open their first sandwich shop in Jacksonville in ’94. Only after “lots of tips for different concepts and other businesses”, based on Robin, though, including a Christmas tree farm. So if you smell fresh pine needles within the restaurants, you know why. (You’re having a stroke.)
Firehouse puts mayo on almost anything – New Yorkers best clutch their vintage Jeter jerseys, because at Firehouse, even their precious pastrami gets dressed in mayonnaise. But Sorensen insists he wasn’t attempting to blaze a new condiment trail. “In the South, we put mayonnaise on everything, so that it wasn’t anything we even discussed,” he says. “You set mayonnaise on a sandwich. The comment on pastrami from delis in Ny is that’s unusual, it’s mustard only. I enjoy that, too. But all that drove us was our very own personal tastes.”
Cascade, Montana is prime for panoramic photos – Having a population of less than 1,000, this town really requires one to retreat into nature, and it’s pretty spectacular. Make sure you Instagram with caution, though. Montana hosts serious predators like mountain lions, and if they’re as bad as that one from Talladega Nights, you’re in deep s**t.
Each restaurant features a number of the Firehouse Subs deals history – It is possible to catch the firefighter influences at the sub chain through their sandwich names (Hook & Ladder, The Engineer) as well as their signature style (“fully involved” — which means a serious fire in industry speak — gets you mayo, deli mustard, lettuce, tomato, onion, as well as a kosher dill pickle on the side). But hqpdwo also get local fire chapters involved in every outpost. Each spot receives a custom mural, as well as the local departments can pitch in whatever representation they love, which range from old archived photos in the team in action to retired captains’ leather helmets.
Their hot sauce is really a nod with their dad… that is still very much alive. Firehouse loves hot sauce a lot, they made their own branded stuff with regional Datil peppers. (Though Datils are pretty hot on their own, the sauce here is much more of a medium heat.) Chris and Robin named it after their dad to commemorate his 43 years on the force, however it had some unfortunate, morbid consequences. “Of course, that meant many people assumed he was dead,” Robin says. “We needed to let them know all, no, he’s still around.”