Don’t worry if you drive by the intersection of River and Orange Grove road at lunchtime and you notice a fire truck parked inside the Marana Marketplace Shopping Center. Since Firehouse Subs, 3844 W. River Rd., opened its doors to the public on June 18, fire crews are seen there regularly.
The newly constructed eatery is frequented not only by shoppers at Marana Marketplace and employees on their lunch break from COSTCO, but it’s also the new haunt of Northwest Tucson firefighters.
Bob and Jo Anne Westerman opened Firehouse Subs.
“There’s a fire truck here almost every day with equipment. The firemen come here for lunch. They feel at home here,” Bob said.
There are 514 corporate and franchise locations across the U.S., and all of them are owned and/or managed by former and current firemen.
Westerman’s son-in-law, Lee Transue, who is his business partner, works full-time for the Tucson Fire Dept. as a fireman. On his days off, Transue works full time at the store.
The building, its décor, employee dress and menu selections all replicate the sense of being in a fire station. Parts of the wall are constructed with red brick. Three firefighter costumes or “turnouts,” as firemen refer to them, hang from hooks on the wall. A hand-painted mural in bold hues of red, yellow and black depicts the 1995 conflagration at Old Tucson Studios. Sandwiches are called by firefighting terms like Engineer Sub® or Firehouse “Hero” Sub®.
Two fire-fighting brothers Chris and Robin Sorensen, in Jacksonville, Fla, inspired the Firehouse Subs franchise. The two opened the first Firehouse Subs in 1994.
The Sorensen brothers wanted to aid their local fire department so they established the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation. It is the mission of each Firehouse Subs store to make contributions to the foundation, which supports stations with equipment. These contributions come as monetary donations from customers or, as Westerman calls them, “round ups,” dining payment amounts rounded off to the nearest dollar or more, the difference of which is contributed to the Public Safety Foundation.
The foundation provides first responders, agencies first to register their requests, with life-saving equipment. Those eligible include fire and police departments and paramedic units. Responders might receive thermal imagers, which allow firefighters to see people and pets within burning buildings. Sales from the store’s $2 pickle barrels funds auto pulse devices, which take the place of CPR allowing users to establish a heartbeat. Sometimes a fire station will get an arson dog.
The house specialty is its steamed meats.
“It’s something about steaming the meat, which brings out its flavor,” Bob said.
Bob said the “natural sweetness” of the Hook & Ladder Sub® made with ham, turkey and cheese can only be released by steaming, a procedure which other sub franchises do not use.
For Westerman, his store’s success depends upon the good work ethic and contentment of his workers. Employees Sydney Martyn, 17, a senior at Marana High School, and Hannah Heisterkamp, 16, a junior at Mountain View High School, agreed with his assessment.
Martyn serves as the station’s air traffic control in the shop, meaning she leads out the team and solves problems.
Hiesterkamp said she’s glad to be working behind the firewall where food is prepared, or in front serving the customers.
For more information on Firehouse Subs, visit the website at http://www.firehousesubs.com.