'Freaky Fast' growth: Springs Jimmy John's franchisees plan more stores

November 23, 2011
photo - Derek Cohn opened his third Jimmy John's restaurant in Colorado Springs a couple weeks ago at Austin Bluffs and Academy in the old Red Hot & Blue site.  Photo by CHRISTIAN MURDOCK, THE GAZETTE
Derek Cohn opened his third Jimmy John's restaurant in Colorado Springs a couple weeks ago at Austin Bluffs and Academy in the old Red Hot & Blue site. Photo by CHRISTIAN MURDOCK, THE GAZETTE 

Jimmy John’s is on the move in the Pikes Peak region.

The number of Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwich Shops in the Springs area has a ways to go before it rivals that of Subway; founded in 1965, Subway has at least 50 area locations, while relative newcomer Jimmy John’s, launched 28 years ago, has just five.

But Jimmy John’s, which prides itself on being “freaky fast,” is on the fast track in terms of growth. The area’s two franchisees each recently remodeled former restaurant buildings and opened new locations, one franchisee has signed a lease for another store to open next spring, and both say they’re on the lookout for more sites.

“I’m very, very sold on Jimmy John’s, the whole brand, I love it,” said Derek Cohn, who opened the area’s first location in April 2008, on the corner of Garden of the Gods and Forge roads. “It’s been accepted well here in the Springs, too.”

Cohn’s second Jimmy John’s opened in August 2010 at Powers and Stetson Hills boulevards; he’s been told by his franchise consultant that it’s become the No. 1 location in the state in terms of sales volume.

This month, his third location opened at the site of the former Red, Hot & Blue restaurant, north of Austin Bluffs Parkway and Academy Boulevard; Jimmy John’s occupies about one-third of the building, and Cohn is talking to potential tenants interested in leasing the rest of the space.

He has also signed a lease to open his fourth Jimmy John’s, probably in March or April, in the former Spicy Pickle restaurant in the King Soopers-anchored Marketplace at Briargate shopping center at Briargate Parkway and Union Boulevard. He’s continuing to scout additional sites.

Cohn sold a residential and commercial cleaning business that he and his wife started in his native Omaha, Neb., and was looking for another business to invest in when his stepfather suggested Jimmy John’s. Cohn’s stepdad was familiar with Jimmy John’s, having tried one of the sandwiches that founder Jimmy John Liautaud was selling while both were students at Eastern Illinois University.

On a trip to Chicago in 2006, Cohn said he tried Jimmy John’s for the first time. But he was won over when he tried a second sandwich upon his return to Omaha.

“It definitely hooked me,” Cohn said.

He moved to Colorado Springs in early 2007 about the same time he was applying to become a Jimmy John’s franchisee.

While Subway, Quiznos and other chains might have been around longer or market themselves with coupons and discounts, Cohn said Jimmy John’s relies on quality and value. Meats, cheeses and vegetables are sliced each day on site, while bread is either used for sandwiches or given out to customers instead of being stored overnight as other chains do, he said.

“Everybody has to eat, and what people are looking for is good quality food for a good value in a down economy,” he said.

And then there’s that “freaky fast” service; the Jimmy John’s restaurants typically employ upward of 30 people, and are designed and staffed so that customers can order and receive their food in about 30 seconds, Cohn said. Some Jimmy John’s locations have drive-through service and all deliver — aiming to get sandwiches to customers within 15 minutes.

Dave Deist, the city’s other Jimmy John’s franchisee, opened his first location on Tejon Street downtown in June 2008. He remodeled the former Arby’s restaurant building east of Academy and Briargate boulevards at the Chapel Hills Mall, and opened his second Jimmy John’s there in late October.

Deist, a Delaware native, has lived in the Springs since being stationed here as a Marine starting in 1994. A Marine reservist, Deist said he worked in defense contracting and telecommunications sales before becoming a Jimmy John’s franchisee in 2007.

Deist employs 25 people at his downtown location and started with 38 at his Chapel Hills store, but added 10 after strong initial sales.

“Given the economy and  the way things are, any time a small-business guy can open something up and hire 30 to 40 people, that’s a good thing,” he said.

Deist doesn’t have additional stores he’s considering at the moment, but is looking and believes the Springs market will support at least 10 to 12 locations, with himself and Cohn splitting the sites.

Cohn said that sounds about right. “When we get to that number, then we’ll see if we have any filler locations — gaps in between busy stores. Right now, the goal is to address certain areas of town.”

Contact Rich Laden: 636-0228
Twitter @richladen
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