Jersey Mike’s Subs slated to open West Lebanon shop next month

By JUSTIN CAMPFIELD

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 04-05-2023 6:47 PM

WEST LEBANON — Jersey Mike’s Subs franchisee Chris Brown had long sought a West Lebanon location for the national chain. Now, after five years of searching — and a bit of real estate creativity — he is poised to finally open a store in the heart of the Upper Valley’s commercial shopping district.

Brown, a Bedford, N.H.-based businessman, expects to open his newest sub shop in the eastern end of the Staples Plaza on Route 12A by the end of May, occupying part of the former Pier 1 space that became vacant after the company announced its bankruptcy in May 2020.

While the store will be the 70th Jersey Mike’s for Brown and his Century Restaurants Inc. holding company, he projects it’ll be among the best performers in the company’s portfolio.

“I look at West Lebanon as potentially being the No. 1 location in the entire company,” said Brown, who also has new shops in Concord and Littleton in the works. “Its benefits are its proximity to Vermont and Dartmouth, the number of people traveling into New Hampshire because of no sales tax, and the regional draw of all the outlining areas that West Lebanon provides.”

After long being unable to find a suitable location in West Lebanon, the region’s desirability finally convinced Brown to take a unique approach to the space’s redevelopment and use.

According to Brown, the Staples Plaza’s owners, West Lebanon-based Peter E. Johnson Building Supplies, Inc., did not want to break the former Pier 1 space into smaller pieces, so he decided to take on the entire 9,300-square-foot space himself, investing his own money into remodeling, and then subdividing the space into three or possibly four separate retail locations.

After carving out 2,000 square feet for his Jersey Mike’s on the building’s southwest corner, Brown is subletting the remaining space, essentially becoming the landlord of its future tenants. The remodeling and subletting, which Brown says is a first for his company, has resulted in new storefronts directly facing Route 12A where the unadorned side of Pier 1 once was.

“I think this speaks volumes to my commitment to West Lebanon, with how long I’ve been looking for a location, to stretch outside our normal approach and get creative so we can add a new location,” Brown said. “We made a commitment to figuring out a way to make it work.”

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Missing Dartmouth student’s body found in Connecticut River
Dartmouth faculty censures college president over response to protest
Search for missing Dartmouth graduate student ends tragically
Rivendell superintendent departure adds to district’s challenges
Affordable apartments slated for vacant city-owned land in Lebanon
NH Cold Case Unit searches Newport property

Brown says he has already secured a new T-Mobile store in the northeastern end and is currently negotiating with one or potentially two additional tenants to occupy the remaining 4,000 square feet between Jersey Mike’s and T-Mobile. A T-Mobile corporate spokesperson confirmed that the company expects to open in the location by the end of this year.

The new project will provide a boost to 12A and fill one of the largest remaining vacant spaces in the corridor, with the former J.C. Penney and the newly remodeled space next to Sierra in the Target plaza remaining among large vacant parcels.

Brown says his project received encouragement from the city of Lebanon, which has long kept a keen eye on occupation rates in the commercial corridor.

“It’s definitely true to say that we want to see some of the vacancies down there backfilled with new tenants, that’s certainly always a goal for us,” said David Brooks, Lebanon’s deputy city manager. “To see vacancies for an extended period of time is not that good.”

Brooks thinks that the novel approach taken by Brown and Century Restaurants speaks to a larger trend in retailing that has reshaped Route 12A in recent years.

“I think it comes down to how retail is changing, it’s about more flexible spaces, perhaps smaller, which is going to lend itself to making it easier to backfill those spaces when one tenant leaves and you are looking for others,” Brooks said. “The loss of big stores like (J.C.) Penney’s and Kmart is opening up opportunities for things like this project and Target and Sierra to come in.”

Jersey Mike’s opened its first location in Point Pleasant, N.J., in 1956, and currently has nearly 2,500 locations worldwide. Other New Hampshire shops owned and operated by Brown and Century Restaurants include stores in Keene, Hudson, Tilton and Manchester.

Justin Campfield can be reached at jhcampfield@gmail.com.

]]>