Over Easy: No garden spot

Dan Mackie (Courtesy photograph)

Dan Mackie (Courtesy photograph)


For the Valley News

Published: 11-10-2023 9:39 PM

Is the Upper Valley making too much of Jersey Mike’s?

I don’t think so — could we make too much of the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon or the spectacular moonwalk, first by astronauts, and later by Michael Jackson?

Jersey Mike’s is a sub shop, and it is the stuff of glory: rolls, meats and veggies, oils, provolone cheese, etc. In case you don’t know (where have you been?), it is scheduled to open Nov. 15 in the former Pier One complex.

So now — huzzah! — comes the era of Jersey Mike’s, whose imminent arrival has inspired conjecture, confusion, excitement and online humor.

Waiting has tested us all. Doctors have been seeing patients with vague symptoms such as a nagging dissatisfaction with life and a desire for “something else.”

This resembles Target Fever, which gripped the Upper Valley a couple of years ago when the new store was met by shoppers in a collective frenzy, as if they’d found Elvis working in sportswear. I think most people have recovered, although I wouldn’t be shocked if some moved closer to Super Targets, stores so large they offer residence options for those who wish to never leave. (Our own Target does not have that — we return daily to our drab lives, alas.)

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Jersey Mike’s Mania was boosted by a logistical delay that fueled intense speculation. About one-third of the local populace posted inquiries on listservs about its fate, eventually drawing mocking answers from members of the Upper Valley Wiseass League.

Finally, the Valley News stepped in with actual information about opening plans, proving its commitment to serving the public good — and more or less spoiling the fun.

I’ve never been to a Jersey Mike’s, although I’ve heard fairly good things about them. Its website says there are more than 2,000 nationwide, which should make you proud to be an American.

According to its website, the company was brought forth in 1956 in Port Pleasant, N.J., as Mike’s Subs. In 1971, the owner was thinking of selling, and Peter Cancro, a 17-year-old prodigy who’d been toiling there since he was 14, arranged to buy the place. Big success followed, making me once again reconsider my non-legendary career path.

At 17, I was a high school student and part-time night manager at Howdy Beefburgers in Rhode Island. It was much like McDonald’s, but without the quality control, and later failed. My $1.65-an-hour labors did not lead to much, except exposure to the hot oil of the Fryolator, which afflicted teenage pores and possibly my DNA.

Unless I’m mistaken, Jersey Mike’s has been nominated for the Nobel Prize (economics, chemistry and, remarkably, peace), and has won the James Beard Award for Excellence in Hot and Cold Subs. Its sandwiches allegedly were served on the International Space Station, where weightlessness caused a bit of a mess with ingredients in zero gravity. NASA has never released the details.

You can expect that city and town clerks will report an upsurge in the number of local babies named Mike in due time. It will take years for a second generation to arrive, the inevitable Mike Jr.’s.

By the time this is published, I imagine a small tent city will be lined up around Jersey Mike’s West Lebanon entrance. I don’t know how many marching bands will be there on opening day — there aren’t as many of them around any more. I don’t think Taylor Swift has songs suitable for them to cover, although it would be no surprise if she showed up. She has a nose for the limelight.

My own sources, admittedly not the best, tell me that Dartmouth College, which already has an Institute for Energy and Society linked with Irving Oil money, might well be negotiating for a Jersey Mike’s Institute for Fast Food and Health. I don’t know about that, but I guess if the money is right …

Words may fail to capture the greatness of Jersey Mike’s, although its website gives credit to “red wine vinegar and an olive oil blend’’ with an “exquisite zing.” It goes on to say: “At Jersey Mike’s, we offer a sub above — one that’s measured in more than inches or seconds ’til served. We carefully consider every aspect of what we do — every slice, every sandwich, every store — we provide our customers with sustenance and substance too.” Seize the day, and hold the mayo!

Speaking for everyone — Upper Valley residents full-time or part-time, and the poor souls who want to come here but can’t find a home to buy — I say Godspeed Jersey Mike’s. We can’t wait. Really.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.