Some shops just don't need to advertise. It's word-of-mouth from respected locals that gives certain locally owned shops and restaurants long-term sustainability as others, despite elaborate attempts, struggle to stay afloat.
Word-of-mouth has kept the small deli Sub One, nestled into a tiny strip mall on Graham Street, a favorite go-to lunch spot for years.
Day after day, the scent of freshly sliced bread, meat, cheeses and onions fills the air around this Uptown sandwich shop as clientele ranging from banking executives to area storekeepers fill Richard Jones' 25-year-old family jewel. During lunch rush, Jones, his son Derek and nephew Aaron serve their tasty sandwiches to the steady the hum of a cash register ringing up orders.
Despite the deli's success, Jones maintains a humble and steady approach to his business. He wouldn't even have his photo taken for this story. "I don't do pictures," he said as customers greeted him.
We sat down with Jones anway, to find out if his total lack of ego is what keeps his subs from sinking. You be the judge.
Creative Loafing: Locals consider your deli one of the best places to enjoy a submarine sandwich, hoagie or whatever you want to call it. How do you take the basic ingredients that go into your sandwiches over the top?
Richard Jones: The only thing I can think of is we try to do as much as we can to put care and love into the food we prepare. We take our time with each customer and I guess that's what keeps them coming back.
There's this thing called the "intangible" and that's the difference. You can't describe it. You just feel it. I think that's what our customers love about Sub One.
You've been running your business hands-on for about a quarter-century. It was hard for us to even catch up with you because you're always working. Do you ever take a day off, and if so, would we ever find you in another sandwich shop enjoying lunch?
(Laughs) Yes, I work everyday except Saturday open to close, but I don't mind because I get to work with my son and my nephew doing what we love.
It's a family business, and having inherited this business it means a lot to me. When I'm off I'm usually in church or just relaxing with family enjoying life. I never worry about the business when I'm off because I know my son and my nephew will run things without missing a beat.
And no, you won't catch me in any other sub shops unless I'm out of town or something, then maybe. (Laughs) Business owners feel a lot of loyalty to their own brand.
A lot has changed in Uptown Charlotte since you've been in business and it looks like more change is yet to come. What are your thoughts on all the growth in the area?
Well, yes a lot has changed in the area and the area has grown a bit, but we just keep doing what we're doing.
Our steak sandwiches, chicken sandwiches — all those are the same and they won't be changing. We'll continue taking care of our customers and preparing the best food we can. But yes, I'm sure there will be changes.