The culinary options in Fort Dodge keep getting more extensive. Adding to the diversity of choices, a Jimmy John's outlet opened Oct. 22 at 3022 Fifth Ave. S.
The new restaurant, one of the most recent additions to the city's booming Corridor of Commerce, is a franchise operation owned and operated by three Des Moines-area entrepreneurs Mario DiSantis, Brian Haberman,and Jim Schwebach. The three also have Jimmy John's establishments in Altoona, Indianola and Marshalltown. They opened their first Jimmy John's, the Indianola location, in 2008.
The Jimmy John's story has been unfolding for three decades. According to the corporate website, a 19-year-old named Jimmy John Liautaud developed the business model and launched the first store in 1983. Today, the company boasts more than 1,600 locations nationwide.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Fort Dodge Jimmy John’s area manager Matt Haberman shows off one of the store’s signature sandwiches. Jimmy John’s opened Oct. 22 at 3022 Fifth Ave. S. in a building shared with Pancheros.
Jimmy John's is about high-quality sandwiches and fast service, according to DiSantis.
"We're a gourmet sub sandwich shop," he said, adding that the quality of the products sold sets Jimmy John's apart from many of its competitors.
"I think our claim to fame is the bread," DiSantis said. "The bread is excellent. We have two choices - French and wheat. We make both of them here. We bake our own bread and only serve bread that is four hours old. Anything that is older than four hours goes in the day-old pile, which we do sell."
Fresh ingredients are at the heart of the Jimmy John's approach.
"We slice all of our vegetables daily," DiSantis said. "We slice all of our meats every day. So, everything is done right here in the store. ... We bake everything here. We slice everything daily. Everything is fresh."
And as anyone who has seen a Jimmy John's commercial will already know, the company couples a commitment to quality food with an emphasis on speedy service, both in the store or via delivery.
"We tout ourselves as freaky fast," DiSantis said. "We make sandwiches fast, and we deliver fast as well."
The Fort Dodge Jimmy John's can seat about 66 customers, has a drive-up window and offers delivery. Orders can be placed online or via telephone as well as in-person at the store.
Customers wanting delivery must be located within roughly 1 1/2 miles of the store. The delivery area is dictated by corporate officials to ensure fast delivery, DiSantis said.
"Corporate comes out and they drive five minutes in each direction during the busiest time," DiSantis explained. "They really set our delivery areas. It's a relatively small delivery area, but all the stores are like that."
DiSantis said he and his partners were attracted to Jimmy John's because the company is not only on the move nationally, but also has an exceptionally strong determination to oversee the quality of the outlets that bear its name.
"We have daily checklists," he said. "We have beautification checklists that we have to do. They come in once a month and they grade us."
That monthly inspection is far more than a casual visit.
"Once a month, one of the Jimmy John's representatives comes in, weighs our meats, goes through all of our paperwork, makes sure the store is clean, makes sure all the lights are working," DiSantis said. "Once a month they follow up. If you go into a store in Fort Dodge, Iowa, or you go into a store in Champaign, Ill., it stays the same."
He said the company's quality control begins with its selection of franchise purchasers.
"They don't just grant stores," DiSantis said. "We had to sit down with them and interview for them to sell us a franchise."
Jimmy John's is a big company, but anyone who visits one of the stores Di-Santis and his partners own will soon discover these three run a family business.
There is a strong hands-on involvement in the Jimmy John's they operate.
"We visit the stores frequently," DiSantis said. "When you come in here, you'll always see me or one of the others here. We have an area manager who visits all of our stores every day. His name is Matt Haberman."
That area manager is the son of one of the owners. And the family involvement doesn't stop with him.
"Jim Schwebach's sons, one of them manages the Indianola store and one runs Marshalltown," Di-Santis said. "So, it's a family business. We're family oriented. We're a close group."
The managers of the Fort Dodge location are Jake Sternquist and Mark Waters.
"They worked in our Altoona store and we promoted them," DiSantis said. "They live up here - live in the community."
One of the secrets of making any business succeed is having a work environment that combines high productivity with a bit of fun.
DiSantis said he finds being part of the front-line team especially enjoyable.
"It's a fun atmosphere," he said. "There's energy - a great positive energy that comes from working in the store, especially with all the young kids. It keeps you young. ... We like to have a lot of fun. We like to keep the energy up."
The Fort Dodge Jimmy John's is open seven days a week from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. It occupies 1,500 square feet of space in the same building that houses Pancheros.
In addition to serving the regular restaurant clientele, DiSantis said a variety of catering options are featured.
"We do party platters, giant subs, box lunches," he said.
Reflecting on the initial community response to this latest venture, DiSantis said he is bullish about the store's future.
"So, far since we opened up, it has surpassed our expectations," he said. "We're just so grateful to the community."