The Grewal brothers’ journey to franchise ownership started with a sandwich.
The first time Avee and Gary Grewal bit into a Big Star sandwich, they were hooked. In October, the pair opened the second Big Star Sandwich Company location in Burnaby.
The New Westminster-based eatery prides itself in being the place to go for a hearty, “blue-collar” sandwich. They prepare all their meat in-house to offer customers an alternative to sandwich chains like Subway.
“If you think about chain restaurants out there, there’s a ton of burgers, there’s even chicken, pizza, there’s a lot of everything, but there’s not a lot of sandwiches. So you have Subway everywhere,” said Alex Johrden, director of operations.
Johrden likes to think of Big Star as the anti-Subway, making sandwiches for the working man, he said.
Started by Clint Bondzuk and Julie Rule, Big Star Sandwich Company opened its first shop on 12th Street in 2013. Three years later, it moved to its current location at 664 Columbia St.
Johrden, who was the first-ever employee, said franchising had always been in the cards for Big Star – and who better to open its first franchised location than a pair of die-hard fans.
Avee and Gary, who live in New Westminster, have been eating at Big Star Sandwich Co. since Day 1, and before they knew it, they were picking up sandwiches four to five times a week.
“We were like, ‘You know, we’re putting so much money into Clint and Julie’s pocket, might as well open our own,’” Avee said.
“They never wanted to run it; they just wanted free sandwiches,” Johrden joked.
Whether that’s true or not, since opening at 3736 Canada Way in Burnaby in October, profits have been rising steadily as more and more customers discover the new shop, Avee said.
“There was not much food going on there and tons of businesses, and when we went there and asked around, everyone said the same thing, ‘We want more food.’ There wasn’t really a choice. There was Subway there and Wendy’s, and it’s been like that for last I don’t know how many years,” he said.
According to Johrden, Avee and Gary were the perfect candidates to take on the first franchise. They were customers first, so they knew the product well, and that’s important for the brand, Johrden said.
“We’re very selective of the people who we would like to be franchisees,” he added.
“Like Gary and Avee here, they were original customers; they really understand what we’re trying to do here.”
And it’s been fun so far, Avee said.
The 25-year-old handles
most of the day-to-day operations of the Burnaby location. Most days he’s there until 8 or 9 p.m. to make sure everything runs smoothly. There have been some bumps along the way, which is all part of the learning experience, one Avee said he hopes to build on moving forward.
But for now, he’s happy with how things are going, he said.
“I think I need a couple more Big Star sandwiches to realize my dream,” he laughed.