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 menu 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 understand 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 was also a firefighter, and a lot of other Sorensen dudes before him — the family unit prides itself on 200 years of professionally putting out flames. However the brothers chose to try something different, and left the biz to eventually open their first sandwich shop in Jacksonville in ’94. Only after “lots of suggestions for different concepts and different businesses”, based on Robin, though, such as a Christmas tree farm. If you smell fresh pine needles in one of the restaurants, you already know why. (You’re possessing 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 up in mayonnaise. But Sorensen insists he wasn’t trying to blaze a brand new condiment trail. “Inside the South, we put mayonnaise on everything, so it wasn’t anything we even discussed,” he says. “You put mayonnaise on a sandwich. The comment on pastrami from delis in New York is that’s unusual, it’s mustard only. I enjoy that, too. But all of that drove us was our personal personal tastes.”
Cascade, Montana is prime for panoramic photos – Using a population of lower than 1,000, this town really requires one to retreat into nature, and it’s pretty spectacular. Be sure to 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 menu with prices 2020 history – It is possible to catch the firefighter influences in the sub chain through their sandwich names (Hook & Ladder, The Engineer) as well as their signature style (“fully involved” — which suggests a severe fire in industry speak — gets you mayo, deli mustard, lettuce, tomato, onion, along with a kosher dill pickle on the side). But hqpdwo will also get local fire chapters associated with every outpost. Each spot receives a custom mural, as well as the local departments can pitch in whatever representation they like, ranging from old archived photos from the team in action to retired captains’ leather helmets.
Their hot sauce is a nod for their dad… that is still very much alive. Firehouse loves hot sauce a great deal, they made their own branded stuff with regional Datil peppers. (Though Datils are pretty hot independently, the sauce here is more of a medium heat.) Chris and Robin named it after their dad to commemorate his 43 years on the force, nevertheless it had some unfortunate, morbid consequences. “Obviously, that meant lots of people assumed he was dead,” Robin says. “We had to tell them all, no, he’s still around.”