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Big star puts Big Star in the global spotlight

Big Star Sandwich Co. used a “very particular set of skills” to entice movie star Liam Neeson to visit the local eatery.
Big Star
Going viral: Actor Liam Neeson popped into Big Star Sandwich Co. on May 2, after staff posted this sign on a sandwich bord. The movie star didn’t have time to eat, but he did pose for photos with staff – a photo that’s since been seen around the world.

Big Star Sandwich Co. used a “very particular set of skills” to entice movie star Liam Neeson to visit the local eatery.

Restaurant staff posted a message on the sandwich board in front the Columbia Street restaurant on May 2,  in an attempt to lure in Neeson, who was filming Hard Power in the neighbourhood.

“Our manager at the shop, Matt, is basically a Liam Neeson super-fan. He had his finger on the pulse of the filming. He heard Liam would be in town and said, ‘Hey, we should put out a sign.’ We said, ‘Yeah, that’s a great idea,’” said Alex Johrden, director of operations, Big Star Sandwich Licensing Ltd. “We never expected he would actually show up.”

But that he did. Several hours after staff put the sign out on the sidewalk, the star of films including Taken, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Schindler’s List and Love Actually dropped in for a visit.

“He walked in at 6:30 p.m. He walked in, walked up to the counter and in that voice from the Taken monologue that everyone loves to quote, and he said, ‘Where’s my free sandwich?’” Johrden said. “They were all speechless. I guess one of them eventually asked if he’d like anything. He unfortunately did not have time to eat, but he did offer to take a photo with the boys and the sign.”

After the visit, Big Star tweeted a photo of Serge Patoka and Kyle Gus with Neeson, along with the caption: “Holy f**k, it worked! #LiamNeeson.”

That tweet led to attention from media outlets, including TMZ, ET Canada, CNN, People Magazine, US Weekly and newspapers from as far away as Ireland.

“It was overwhelming. Overwhelming and surprising,” Johrden said. “Honestly, it did not seem like the kind of story that would take off the way it did.”

Neeson’s visit and the coverage that ensued was definitely good for business.

“Excellent,” Johrden said of the impact. “We could not be happier.”

Clint Bondzuk and Julie Rule opened Big Star Sandwich Company Ltd. on 12th Street in March 2013, relocating to a larger space on Columbia Street in 2016. A second location opened in Burnaby in October 2016 and a third will soon open in Surrey, with future franchises planned for Maple Ridge and Langley/Aldergrove.

“We have been extremely happy with how it’s going, even before all this attention,” Johrden said. “This is just the icing on the cake.”

With downtown New West being a hot spot for filming, will Big Star try to entice famous clients in for a bite to eat in the future?

“We will just keep doing what we are doing,” Johrden said. “It could be a bit of a running joke that every time we hear a star is filming we will throw something out there and see what happens. No hard plans.”