Firehouse Subs joins other new tenants at Cedar Hills Crossing II

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Firehouse Subs owners Brandon and Stephanie Ensley talk about the process of opening up a franchise for the first time.At some restaurant chains, customers walking through the door are greeted by a weary-sounding, disembodied voice echoing from the back room.

That’s certainly not the case at Firehouse Subs, where the crew joins in hearty unison each time a hungry patron crosses the threshold, “Welcome to Firehouse!”

The enthusiastic welcoming style is a tradition at the Jacksonville, Fla.-based sandwich franchise, which just opened its first Oregon outlet in a brand-new, 19,000-square-foot space at Cedar Hills Crossing II. It also fits personable franchise owners Stephanie and Brandon Easley to a T.

The couple, who have roots in Seattle and Vancouver, Wash., moved from Denver to Beaverton a few months ago to open their first business, in the form of Firehouse Subs.

“We’ve been wanting to do something as far as business ownership for awhile,” said Brandon, a former commercial airplane pilot. “We wanted to find something we loved. I found this instantly appealing to me. You’ve got to love coming to work every day.”

The sandwich shop at 2755 S.W. Cedar Hills Blvd. is one of a handful of new businesses to move into the freshly expanded section of the center that fronts the busy thoroughfare.

Construction on the 24,000-square-foot expansion helmed by Vancover, Wash.-based developer C.E. John Company, started in spring 2013 and wrapped up in late fall 2013.

Businesses joining Firehouse Subs in the two commercial buildings include Seattle-based Mod Pizza, which opened its first Oregon location there in November, LifeWay Christian bookstore, Zoom Care and a Verizon outlet. C.E. John Company plans to announce other businesses soon to fill remaining spaces at Cedar Hills Crossing TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Mod Pizza is just one of many new stores that have set up shop in the 24,000-square-foot expansion at Cedar Hills Crossing II.

Nod to local firefighters

Founded by former firefighting brothers in Jacksonville, Fla., Firehouse Subs makes a point of bonding with the communities where it opens.

If customers look to the left after walking through the door, Westside residents will be struck by the large, detailed mural depicting Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue’s Station 67 with its large engine parked in front.

The mural depicts an American flag waving from the top of the department’s ladder truck as an airplane, similar to the one Brandon Ensley flew as a pilot, flies overhead.

“Yeah, it’s flying a little low there,” he admits, “but we had to fit everything in.”

Mural Artist Joe Puskas and his team paint every Firehouse mural from his studio at the company’s Florida headquarters. He has painted more than 740 community-tailored murals since the first Firehouse opened in 1994.

Maryellen Mech said the mural is an example of the bonding between the franchise and every community the restaurant enters.

“You can have a great site, but if the franchise owner isn’t part of the community, the part of the restaurant within the four walls and outside doesn’t matter,” she said.

And of course, there’s the food. Firehouse features a wide array of steamed-meat sandwiches made with premium meats and cheeses piled high on a toasted sub roll. Medium and large hot specialty subs include the No. 1 selling Hook & Ladder, served with smoked turkey breast and Virginia honey ham smothered with Monterey jack cheese. Other top sellers include the Smokehouse Beef & Cheddar Brisket, loaded with USDA choice beef brisket, smoked for at least 16 hours in an authentic Texas smokehouse, and topped with melted cheddar cheese and a special combination of sauces, including Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce.

Inspired by New York delicatessens, the New York Steamer combines corned beef brisket and pastrami topped with melted provolone.

Those who like their sandwich with a lot of extras may ask for it “fully involved,” with condiments and fresh TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Firehouse Subs employee Cathy Wells serves sandwiches to Brandon and Renata Lasich of Scappoose at the new location at Cedar Hills Crossing. The Lasiches are huge fans of Firehouse Subs and once made a special trip to Las Vegas for their favorite sandwiches.

Paying it forward

Firehouse makes a point of giving back to the community through fundraising events, golf tournaments and donations to public safety organizations such as TVF&R.

In 2005, Firehouse Subs created a public safety foundation with the mission of providing funding, life-saving equipment and educational opportunities to first-responders and public safety organizations. The foundation has given $8.3 million to hometown heroes in 39 states and Puerto Rico.

Local fundraising initiatives include recycling empty five-gallon pickle buckets and selling them to guests for $2 each. A “round-up” program allows guests to “round up” their bill to the nearest dollar, and spare change goes to donation canisters.

“Our sandwiches are good, but it’s an awesome, satisfying feeling to go home knowing you’ve done something for the community,” Ensley said. “And it gives you a feeling of satisfaction that there’s substance to your work.”

Scappoose residents Renata and Brandon Lasich knew where they were having lunch on Tuesday as soon as they heard a Firehouse Subs had opened at Cedar Hills Crossing. We’re talking about a couple that missed their favorite Florida sandwich shop so much, in fact, that they made a special trip to Las Vegas to get a taste of the Firehouse.

“We used to live in Florida,” Brandon explained. “We got (to Scappoose) and Googled the closest location. We made a trip to Vegas.”

“We ate at Firehouse every day we were there,” Renata said.

“It’s definitely one of my favorite places,” Brandon explained of Firehouse. “They steam the meat. That’s the kicker.”

Firehouse is open Sunday through Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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