Thursday, 25 June 2020 20:11

Diners rush to Firehouse Subs opening day in Rockingham

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The dining room of Firehouse Subs in Rockingham, which opened Thursday,features a hand-painted mural by Chief Mural Artist Joe Puskas of a Firehouse race car with a pit crew of firemen — including one waiving an American flag — and a Rockingham Fire Department truck on the track at Rockingham Speedway. The dining room of Firehouse Subs in Rockingham, which opened Thursday,features a hand-painted mural by Chief Mural Artist Joe Puskas of a Firehouse race car with a pit crew of firemen — including one waiving an American flag — and a Rockingham Fire Department truck on the track at Rockingham Speedway. William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — Firehouse Subs had a five-alarm opening day, with patrons in and out and vehicles circling the building.


The restaurant opened at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in the strip at the front of Richmond Plaza, next to Verizon Wireless, which has been open for about a month.

“It’s been great, it’s been awesome,” said franchise owner Larry Chandler. “It’s just what we thought — all of the great people of Rockingham’s come out and seen us.”

Chandler, of Columbia, South Carolina, already owns 30 Firehouse locations in the Carolinas and will soon be opening another in Myrtle Beach.

Chandler owns a concentration of Firehouse restaurants in Columbia and Charlotte, as well as some toward the coast and one in Lumberton.

According to a press release, Chandler has been in the restaurant business for 35 years and has been growing the Firehouse brand for a decade.

Firehouse subs was founded in 1994 by by brothers and former firefighters Chris and Robin Sorensen in Jacksonville Florida, according to a press release.

Chandler’s locations are a fraction of the nearly 1,200 restaurants across 45 states, Puerto Rico and Canada

Restaurant Business Online ranks Firehouse as the top casual and sandwich chain in the nation, as well as fourth-best chain overall.

The dining room features a hand-painted mural by Chief Mural Artist Joe Puskas of a Firehouse race car with a pit crew of firemen — including one waiving an American flag — and a Rockingham Fire Department truck on the track at Rockingham Speedway.

According to a press release, Puskas and his team have painted more than 1,165 murals from his studio at Firehouse Subs Headquarters.

“This is a great opening,” Chandler continued. “We’ve done really well on our drive-thru and, of course, over here (inside) too.”

Instead of sitting back and watching his employees work, Chandler was right in the mix, putting together sub sandwiches on the line as customers placed their orders.

“We’ve had a great turnout so far,” he said.

Chandler said the original plan was to open in December, then it changed to the end of March — just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“But everything happens for a reason and you’ve got to roll with it,” he said. 

With the current restrictions, the restaurant had to open at 50 percent capacity, but also offers patio dining, in addition to the drive-thru, take-out and online ordering options.

The restaurant currently has 45 employees with plans to add more, according to Chandler.

“We’ve had some great applicants from here,” he added, pointing out the young lady at one of the two registers. “We’re very fortunate.”