While on a trip in Florida, AJ Hofer heard about a sandwich store that made food sliced fresh to order and had to give it a try.
Years later, Hofer had to have a location of his own. Hofer opened his first Jersey Mike's Subs in
West Fargo two weeks ago, and lines have been nearly out the door early on. The owner and franchisee of the first North Dakota and metro location has three more stores lined up in the metro and hopes to open even more depending on the future success of this first location.
"You can get just a huge sandwich," Hofer said. "And I was just all about that. I was hooked right away."
Hofer has spent the last 10 years in Brookings, S.D., after graduating from North Dakota State working with Qdoba Mexican Eats. He opened up five stores and still is involved with two of those locations in South Dakota. He said he was running out of places to open up stores and thought the rapid expansion of West Fargo might provide opportunity to try something new. After not getting back to Fargo much following his graduation from college, Hofer said coming back was "a no-brainer."
"I love the brand and everything about it," Hofer said. "So we set out on a journey to check it out and here we are today."
Hofer said Jersey Mike's is specific on the franchisees they want. But he always had this idea in the back of his mind since he ate there for the first time. After about an 18-month process, he moved his family to the area.
"I've always had a craving for it, but could never find it unless I was on vacation or traveling," Hofer said. "It's been a long time coming. It's exciting to be here."
West Fargo poses as a competitive market for nearly any business, including restaurants. But between cutting the bread and meat fresh and the signature "Mike's Way" of preparing sandwiches, Hofer believes Jersey Mike's sets itself apart. He said he's excited to be a part of West Fargo's growth, especially in a place that offers accessibility and visibility in a business area that's "exploded." He said he also wants Jersey Mike's to be involved with the community and wants to reach out to schools for fundraisers.
"We just want to do what we do really, really well," Hofer said. "It's that East Coast-style deli thing that nobody else really has. Hopefully it resonates with the Fargo-Moorhead community."
Hofer said the biggest hurdles were getting workers trained in. He worries turnover could be an issue and said the city's work shortage could be concerning, but he believes Jersey Mike's will be appealing for employment. He said he wanted to hire 20 people and was about 75 percent there a few days before opening.
Although he's opened restaurants before and believes the metro is the right place to open a new one, Hofer said he still felt nervous about getting this Jersey Mike's off the ground.
"This one feels like it's a little more pressure packed," Hofer said. "There's risk involved in everything, and I realize that but that's kind of part of being an entrepreneur. There's always going to be some risk and nerves, but you keep working it out and stay true to who you are and what you do and let the pieces fall where they may."
Hofer said about 25 Jersey Mike's opened up in Minnesota over the span of seven years. He hopes to replicate that success, but he also worried that the business would grow too fast and too many people would come in. In short, Hofer was excited and nervous.
"There's a pretty good buzz," Hofer said. "We're hoping to blow the doors off."
What: Jersey Mike's Subs
Where 1833 24th Avenue
Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Phone: (701) 561-0800